Do You Know What You’re Eating?

RFID has proved to be highly useful to improve track and trace capabilities for improving food safety and dealing with recalls.  However, here’s another angle associated with food that you may not have thought about: authenticity. How do you know where your food came from or that it is what it claims to be?

Let’s say you’re paying $6 more a pound for wild salmon at your favorite grocery store.  Are you sure it’s wild?  How about those free range chicken breasts?  Does your grocer even know for sure?

That exotic white tuna sushi you’re eating?  Maybe it’s Escolar, at least according to a story published last year in the Boston Globe.

For some, ensuring that the food you’re buying is what it claims to be is merely economic…why pay more for something special when it’s not special?  But, for others, this can have for more serious health or religious impacts.

Steven Kronenberg, an attorney with expertise in food safety, recently blogged about three companies facing litigation because they allegedly misrepresented that their foods were Kosher/Halal certified.  Kronenberg writes:

Food companies face huge risks from this litigation due to the enormous size of the potential plaintiffs’ classes.  In the U.S., Halal-certified foods are a $20 billion market.  Kosher consumers buy $12.5 billion in food annually, and the broader market for Kosher ingredients exceeds $300 billion.  (Many non-Kosher consumers choose to buy Kosher foods due to their perceived higher quality, and Kosher is the “hottest word on food labels.”)  To manage some of these risks in the CPG market, some researchers are exploring the use of RFID technology to trace Halal-certified foods throughout the supply chain.  Food companies in related market segments should consider developing plans to manage their risks of this emerging and costly litigation. 

Mr. Kronenberg has also blogged about food fraud and litigation risks.

As the world’s food chain becomes increasingly complex, intelligent RFID tags can help. They can be used to capture and store information about a product’s origins and travels through the supply chain, helping to document where the food came from and its authenticity – as well as helping to document that it has been properly stored and handled along the way.  Certainly that’s worth $6 a pound. 

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Intelleflex Corporation

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