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We all know the best way to tell if your expired milk has really soured is to open up the cap and take a not-so-large whiff.  But what if the carton changed color when it spoiled, saving your nose from sniffing rotten milk?  We may not be too far from that.

A recent article posted on Slate.com and included in their special food issue lays out the cutting edge technology that we can expect to see in food packaging. Don't spend much time thinking about cutting edge food packaging technology?  Me, either, but it's pretty cool...and kind of scary.

Take, for example, a sensor that can detect when protein begins breaking down that can be found on some seafood packages. Yep. That exists.  Or a box of grapefruit juice that actively works to make the juice not as bitter, using nanoparticles.  Here's an excerpt from the article that describes the process:

A team of scientists led by Dr. Joseph Hotchkiss, director of the School of Packaging at Michigan State University, has been trying to use intelligent boxing to improve the taste of grapefruit juice. They’ve “impregnated” the polymers on the inside of grapefruit juice cartons with enzymes that unravel bitter citrus compounds. Basically, these enzymes saw sugar molecules off of the compounds, allowing them to float freely (and sweetly) in the liquid. But the enzymes themselves remain embedded in the carton’s inner lining, so they can’t end up in the newly sugary juice.

If you're somewhat alarmed, I was too. Nanoparticles in my juice? But here's the thing, this new kind of packaging doesn't have to be added directly to the product in order to work.  Or so they say.

The article does mention that the FDA  doesn't yet categorize nanoparticles as dangerous, but does indicate that they affect the "identity" of foods.

So what do you think?  Would you prefer a label that could talk to you, or do you prefer reading the nutrition information?

Author

Annie Bergman

Annie Bergman is a Global Communications Manager and helps plan, assign and develop content for the nonprofit’s website, magazine and blog. Bergman has interviewed survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, beekeepers in Honduras, women’s groups in India and war widows in Kosovo, among many others in her six years at Heifer.