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Colour-code labelling for continuous monitoring of quality and safety of packed chicken meat

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FreshInk2 (Colour-code labelling for continuous monitoring of quality and safety of packed chicken meat)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2017-03-31

Food date labelling aims to provide consumers with information that can allow them to decide whether or not the food is safe to eat. However, these dates rarely accurately reflect the freshness of the food, resulting in significant quantities of safe food being thrown away, while at the same time, unsafe, “in date” food being eaten.
Currently there is no set methodology that defines how to calculate these dates. It is the seller’s responsibility to set the appropriate date mark, together with the storage instructions required to achieve that shelf life. However, these dates often fail to reflect the true freshness and safety status of the product.
In order to maintain consumer confidence, reduce waste and improve food safety, the food industry needs food labelling to accurately reflect the fresh and health status of the product, not arbitrary and predefined dates. This is where FreshInk comes in.
CHIMIGRAF has successfully prototyped and tested a commercial colour-code label which monitors the freshness and deterioration of packed fresh chicken. The label is printed with a pioneering ink formulation that reacts with metabolites produced by the poultry, as a result of its degradation process, which triggers a colour change in the ink. This colour change is correlated with the degree of spoilage of the packaged poultry products, providing retailers and consumers with a reliable means to get accurate, continuous information about the status of the fresh chicken meat they manage, purchase and eat.
The overall aim of the FreshInk is to launch commercially viable, duly protected and appropriately certified FreshInk labels into the market. During this phase 2 project, CHIMIGRAF will perform the necessary production line adaptations and industrial up scaling, certify that the labels meet appropriate regional and national regulations, demonstrate the labels benefits in operational conditions and prepare for commercialisation of the colour code freshness indicator label.
New production area next to CHIMIGRAF’s existing factory was constructed, having regard to the strict site requirements of the BRC Standard in order to assure civil engineering aspects of the factory appropriate for the printing process according the Standard and thus also to Food Contact Materials European Legislation.
The correct behaviour of the Freshink indicator was been validated at industrial scale. First printing was run following all the appropriate GMP and hygiene procedures
The freshness indicator developed at the project will be called FRESHCODE because the name FRESHINK was not available. This and EU trademark has been registered to commercialize it after the end of the project.
The FRESHCODE indicator is made up of 2 different labels that work together.
These 2 labels are:
- The indicating label
- The caption label
It has been validated with different packaging formats and food products. Results shown that it can be useful to control de freshness of: chicken breasts, wings and drumsticks, skewered chicken and salmon steaks.
During the execution of the Phase 2, CHIMIGRAF widened its portfolio of leading stakeholders to whom introduce the FRESHCODE. Some of these stakeholders were met with the Project Manager of CHIMIGRAF and part of the technical team.
In general, all key stakeholders showed interest in FRESHCODE and appreciated the benefits of its implementation on their meat packed products. They made very useful recommendations about functionalities and specifications of our FRESHCODE.
Two retailers and their chicken breasts suppliers have been interested in test our indicator in their facilities in an industrial pilot test.
With these packer and retail supply chain pilots, the advantages of the freshness indicator were demonstrated over the use of common expiry dates. Its colour indication is well related with the freshness of the product and it is able to detect “anomalous” trays because it makes an individual control of each tray.
The international patent application that was submitted in 2015 to protect this technology (application number PCT/EP2015/050368 based on Spanish priority patent ES2540786) reached the national and regional phase in July 2016. At this stage, we made the decision to extend the patent protection to strategic markets. Protection has now been sought in United States, Mexico, Japan, Europe, China, Hong Kong and Brazil.
Additionally, it has been approved by the EFSA to be used in EUROPE in contact with food products and we are waiting the answer from the FDA to use it in USA:
At SME Instrument Phase 1, we developed an initial operational plan that we have optimized and validated. This initial operational plan reveal that the manufacture of the inks for the Project is not the problematic point of the possible industrialization. This operational plan has been updated during the project progress.
Freshink is a key innovative component for a new generation of intelligent packaging solutions based on freshness indicators. The research field has blown up over the last years. However, the vast majority of ongoing developments are too expensive for application or not sufficiently mature. No competitors have been identified that follow the same technological approach and therefore, do not arrive at the same results.
CHIMIGRAF has developed a label with ink which changes colour based on the freshness status of the chicken. This allows the consumer to know the real freshness state of the chicken and prioritise food use based on the label’s colour changes. Widespread use of this label could significantly reduce the amount of fresh chicken that is unnecessarily disposed of each year.
The impact of the use of the FRESHCODE by the meat industry will impact on 3 different actors, how are:
- Europe
- Users
 European dimension: impact on environment and society
Environmental benefits of FreshInk: The reduction of the disposal of food will reduce livestock animals and packaging with the subsequent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, waste of water resources and energy consumption.
 Users
FreshInk labels provide various benefits throughout the fresh chicken supply chain, for retailers, packagers and producers, however these benefits are predominantly secondary benefits that occur as a consequence of the benefits for the final consumer.
The Final Consumer: The FreshInk label provides the consumer with specific information as to the freshness of the chicken. This information provides value to the final consumer at various points. The first is the point of purchase, giving them confidence that the chicken they are buying is fresh. Secondly, the consumer is continuously advised as to the freshness of the chicken, thereby assisting them to effectively and efficiently manage their food, and thereby reducing waste. Furthermore, the use by date does not need to be set so conservatively, as the FreshInk label will advise the customer when the food has gone bad, meaning the consumer has longer to use the food. Finally, the consumer will be able to avoid eating unsafe food as the FreshInk label will alert them to the fact that the food is no longer fresh.