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(Pocket-lint) - When you're shopping for milk in the future you won't be looking at "Use By" dates but rather checking actual quality using a smart lid.

The Smart Cap was developed by engineers at the University of Berkeley. The 3D printed cap is able to detect when food and drink is going off.

As increased levels of bacteria are detected, by changes in electric characteristics, the cap is able to react and notify its owner.

At the moment the guideline dates printed on food labels are a rough guess at best. According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers up to 2 billion tonnes of food is thrown away each year. That's about half the world's food produced in a year. The Smart Cap could help to avoid this waste.

By informing people about food quality they can feel assured when they eat or drink something. At the moment many people throw food away based on "Use By" dates which may not be accurate.

Many say that using the old nose to sniff out what's gone off works just as well. Perhaps in the case of milk, but for some food this may not work.

The Smart Cap is cheap to make thanks to 3D printing and, according to the engineers that created it, accurate. In the future people may be able to download specs for these types of products and print them at home.

Since the Smart Cap is still part of a research project right now don't expect to see it at the supermarket as soon as we'd like.

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Writing by Luke Edwards. Originally published on 29 July 2015.