Two ways to ameliorate this "epidemic" are to improve the control over the conditions in which food is kept as it moves from farm to consumer markets, and to enhance the traceability of food shipments within the supply chain.
New U.S. legislation, The Food Safety Modernization Act, focuses on the establishment of industry-wide data standards for this information, and the law requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop and publish regulations that address the prevention of food-borne disease outbreaks.
Radio frequency identification technologies could play a role in helping the food supply chain meet the new requirements and decrease incidents of food-borne illness, according to RFID industry analysts at ABI Research.
"RFID systems with temperature sensors can contribute to less tainted produce and provide the same standards-based tracing, while delivering information that could prevent as much as $35 billion/year in wasted produce," said Bill Arnold, a principle analyst with ABI.
The initial FDA trials are being conducted in partnership with industry associations such as the United Fresh Produce Association for produce and the American Meat Institute for fresh meats. Once these trials are completed, the question will be: which stakeholders in the industry will actually buy and use these systems?
"That is a very big question," said Arnold. "It is of most benefit to food retailers, but they don't control the harvest point or the shipper, so it's a matter of who decides they either have the clout or the ability to make it happen."
Self-interest and liability limitation will be the motivators, Arnold said. "In some cases large retail chains will buy RFID systems and require their suppliers to use them. In other cases, large food brands such as Dole, Hawaiian Tropic, Chiquita and others may invest to promote their food freshness and safety, allowing them to justify a premium price," according to the analyst.
A new study from ABI, "RFID-enabled Food Safety and Traceability Systems," reviews the Food Safety Modernization Act's impact on food-industry use of auto-ID technology in both the short and intermediate terms. It provides forecasts for the use of RFID-enabled data logging devices from 2010 through 2015 in cold chain applications.
This report is part of the RFID Research Service. More information on the report is available here.
Food Logistics, a sister publication of Supply & Demand Chain Executive, covered the food safety issue in depth in its January/February 2011 issue. Read the exclusive cover story by FL Editor-in-Chief Katherine Doherty here.
- The Focus Is On Prevention — Identify the critical points in your operations and avoid contamination.
- Recognizing Real RFID Adoption Potential
- Wal-Mart Achieving Improved On-shelf Availability with RFID, Study Finds
- Time for RFID: Applying RFID in the Supply Chain
- The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed