RFID technology could help keep food safe

Posted by Editorial on 28th September 2009

The October 2009 issue of the Journal of Food Science reviews the key concepts of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and suggests it has a key role to play in food safety.

RFID technology enables identification of an object from a distance without requiring a line of sight. RFID tags can also incorporate additional information such as details of the product and manufacturer and can transmit measured environmental factors such as temperature and relative humidity.

As a result, RFID technology has led to better safety handling of raw materials and finished products in the food industry and is used to speed up the processing of manufactured goods and materials, according to the report.

Scientists from North Carolina State University detail the numerous applications of RFID technology in the food industry:

* Within supply chain management, RFID tags can be used to track food products during distribution and storage.

* Multiple tags can be read simultaneously and RFID technology can facilitate automated product shipments from a warehouse to a retail location.

* Freshtime RFID tags monitor the shelf life of foods to which they are attached. The tags sense temperature and integrate it over time to determine the shelf life of products.

* ThermAssureRF is a new RFID-based system that combines tracking and temperature measurement to ensure foods such as meat, fruit and dairy products remain at a safe temperature during transportation and storage. It is currently being used by companies that ship wine, produce, seafood, meat, poultry, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

“The challenges that face RFID technology are read range and accuracy in retail environments, nonuniform standards, cost, recycling issues and privacy and security concerns” says lead researcher K.P. Sandeep. “Another challenge is the differences in frequencies allocated for RFID applications because each country is setting their own standards for the new technology.”