Consumers may soon be able to check high-tech sensor labels that take the guesswork out of finding pears that are ripe and ready to eat.

The new sensor labels, inside plastic clamshell packages of green Anjou pears, react to aromas released by the ripening fruit.

The labels can help consumers determine the various stages of ripeness. Red means the pears aren't fully ripe. As the pears ripen, the label changes to orange. When the label turns yellow, it means the pears are soft and ripe.

The sensors, trademarked under the ripeSense name, were developed by HortResearch scientists in New Zealand.

Five years in the making, the labels are being tested on pears grown in Hood River, Ore.

So far, the reaction from retailers and consumers has been positive, said Kevin Moffitt, president and chief executive officer of Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, Ore. The pear bureau has been working with HortResearch for three years on the labels.

"It really looks promising," he said.

In Portland, four-pack clamshells, molded to fit the pears, are being tested at Zupans, a small chain of upscale grocery stores, Moffitt said.

Tests were also held at three Progressive Enterprises Ltd. stores in Auckland, New Zealand. Pears from Hood River were shipped to Auckland for the New Zealand trials. The ripeSense labels are being tested first on pears. Kwifruit, avocados, mangos, melons and stone fruit,will be next.

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