Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI) has developed inks that provide reminders when a product has been out of refrigeration and temperature has started to rise.
The patent-pending ‘reveal inks’ provide “return to fridge” reminders to products such as milk, yogurt, salsa, pickles and ketchup.
For example with milk, when it is at a safe temperature, the message reads “Drink Milk,” but when the carton reaches a target warm temperature (e.g., 40° F. or 4.4° C.), a color will disappear revealing a “return to fridge” reminder to the consumer.
CTI’s process allows the message, which can be ‘on’ and ‘off’ throughout the life of the package, to be customized.
The firm’s ink technology can be found on products from Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Coors, Fanta, Heineken, Monster Energy, Mountain Dew , Pizza Hut and Tuaca Liqueurs.
The ‘reveal inks’ are powered by a combination of thermochromic inks and can be printed on cans, paper labels, cartons and films.
CTI said they are applied with the standard ink printing process and are treated as an additional colour/ink station in printing.
All of the inks have passed third-party testing and are compliant with California’s Prop. 65, which sets out government standards for ink safety compliance, they added.
“The only significant risk to ink performance, as with any ink, is prolonged exposure to intense heat (>100C) or direct sunlight (>8 hours),” said Patrick Edson, CTI’s chief marketing officer.
“Those specifications are provided to customers who analyse their supply chain or consumer usage for risk areas.”
‘Return to fridge’ reminder
The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends refrigerated food should be discarded if it has been in temperatures above 40° F. (4.4° C.) for more than two hours.
“The “reveal inks” continue to work with open, reusable products (e.g., milk or cheese). The advantage of “Reveal Inks” is that they give you an instant reminder to “return to fridge” if the temperature is rising,” said Edson.
“But to be clear, the purpose is to provide better food management to preserve quality. This is not a guarantee that products will not spoil or an alert when they are spoiled.”
Lack of proper refrigeration conditions can result in Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella and Staphylococcus, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
“Most parents know that food safety at home is a big deal, but they need help understanding how long they can keep something out of the fridge,” he said.
“Food companies are understandably hesitant to put warning labels on their packaging, so the problem continues to exist.
“The simple solution is a ‘return to fridge’ reminder that appears on packaging when the product starts to warm up and the product can become vulnerable to spoilage. When the temperature is fine, the reminder is ‘off.’ When the package is getting warm, the reminder turns ‘on,’” Edson added.