Thomas-NannSupply chain control of meat and seafood freshness quality is vital, both to satisfy the strict standards of food retailers and to ensure consumer satisfaction and food safety.

Our technology enables staff throughout the meat and seafood retail and supply chain to readily verify freshness, at any time, without outward indication to concern customers. This can significantly reduce the risks of food poisoning or customer dissatisfaction.

The health and wellbeing trend has impacted on food packaging, with increased use of ‘smart’ materials to ensure aseptic storage, prevent contamination and indicate freshness. Supermarkets and other food retailers seek to ensure that meat displayed for sale is never of ‘questionable’ freshness, which could be damaging to their reputations. Market research suggests such retailers perceive as critical the avoidance of any indication which may cause customers even to consider whether items presented for sale may not be fresh. As such, the supermarkets require (and require their suppliers to use) a means of validating meat freshness which does not give rise to any concern in the minds of customers.

It is desirable to remove deteriorating products from display before any change in colour or other indication of loss of freshness occurs. ‘Sell by’ and ‘use by’ dates are merely indicative of time since processing, they cannot validate the actual condition of a product at any point in time. Tests such as smell require undesirable opening of sealed packaging.

Our technology can be easily used by any staff, enabling monitoring of freshness from the point of packaging to the supermarket shelf. Simply by shining a UV light, such as a portable barcode scanner, onto the freshness sensor incorporated into the packaging, a luminescent colour change will clearly indicate the state of freshness of meat or seafood. This allows for removal of unsatisfactory products from the supply chain or display before they reach the customer.

Technology and opportunity

A priority patent application has been filed in the United Kingdom, with the intention to file for PCT and international territories.
Our technology has high specificity and sensitivity for detection of biogenic amines (produced by bacterial decay of meat and fish), more sensitive than the human sense of smell.

A luminescence-based system, our nanoparticle technology can be incorporated into packaging or patches, to allow for checking of freshness by abattoirs, fresh food transporters, restaurants, supermarkets and retail outlets.

Other technologies in development or on the market show obvious, visible colour change in response to certain indicators of decay. However, market research indicates supermarkets and food retailers do not want this. Rather, they consider it vital that the testing process is controlled, displaying no evidence of deterioration to customers.

Our freshness sensor technology can be incorporated into packaging with no outward sign, so that no customer concern is caused.

Suppliers and retailers control the testing process by shining a readily-available UV light, such as a barcode scanner, onto the ‘smart’ packaging. Luminescent colour then clearly reveals the state of freshness or decay of the product. This enables suppliers and retailers to confidently remove unsatisfactory products before they reach customers, and before any colour change or smell becomes apparent in the meat or seafood.

Use of ‘smart’ materials is one of the fastest growing trends in packaging. Our technology offers a unique functionality that meets the needs of meat and seafood suppliers and retailers.

Proof of concept has been demonstrated with the nanoparticle detection of biogenic amines. University of East Anglia is seeking partners who are interested either in licensing this technology, or collaborating in a joint development program (for incorporation of the technology into packaging).

University of East Anglia

Giles Whattam, Marketing and Systems Manager

Tel: 01603 591582


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