Laser marking for nude, tattooed food
Traceability Solutions - Sep 11th, 15:32
The drive toward naked produce is gaining momentum, with producers under immense pressure to respond to the growing calls to reduce plastic waste. It’s no small wonder, considering that from 1950 to 2015, cumulative plastic production reached a whopping 7.8 billion metric tons – giving us more than one ton of plastic per person on earth.
With technology evolving to match these demands, there are becoming ever more innovative ways to combat the accumulation of single-use plastics, especially in the area of food production.
In South Africa, this trend has already been picked up by Pick n Pay, with around 13 stores hosting “nude zones” which are plastic and packaging-free. The hope is to encourage South Africans to start buying loose produce, using their own containers to transport them.
Couple this with the new R638 regulations which we discussed in our previous FastMoving article, and it’s very evident that the new focus is on an environmentally-friendly solution that improves supply chain transparency, accountability, and security.
This is how laser marking for produce – or naked food marking – has come into its own in the food marking sphere. Innovations in this technology allow a laser-etched mark to be applied to foods, removing the requirement for plastic labels on individual items.
The method of laser marking nude, tattooed food is simple: the laser removes the very top layer of skin from hardy fruits or vegetables and can imprint barcodes, logos, and sell-by dates directly on the produce.
You may ask how much scope a laser marking process has in the “nude food” arena:
In our experience, laser marking works well on fruit and vegetables like sweet potatoes, gem squash, and butternut, as well as many other perishables including bread, thick-skinned fruits, eggshells, coconuts, and other nuts. The definition of “hardy’ produce is broad and can include foods that are not commonly viewed as “markable”.
Business Insider lists the produce available at Pick n Pay, and the options are quite varied; they include brown steak mushrooms, portabellini mushrooms, red and green chilis, cocktail tomatoes, sweet Palermo peppers, baby brinjals, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, sweet corn, and baby cabbage.
These item-level produce markings allow producers and processors to protect their brands, reduce food waste (thanks to the traceable point of origin, indelible sell-by-date, and individual specifics noted within the barcode data) and drop the cost of recalls in the case of incorrectly marked or erroneously labelled or hazardous produce.
In terms of governmental regulations, laser-marking fresh produce complies with all of the legislation regarding the labelling of foodstuffs either produced in or imported to South Africa. They are not removable, highly visible, tamper-proof, and the marking process allows for all of the required information to be stored in the code etched onto the food.
In the future, we may see laser-marked Nude Food become far more prevalent, with all labels made redundant by the rise of customer-held scanners, making a full farm-to-fork history on each piece of produce available to buyers, including origin, type, nutritional information, and more.
For food producers, it means much more:
• Better protection of your brand
• Simpler identification of adulteration, fraud, or misuse
• Transparency brought by easy integration into the value chain
• Origins simply determined across mixed lots
• Linking products to registry systems, including Blockchain and FDA affirmed registries
• Non-GMA with no impact on product appearance, taste, shelf life or yield.
Simply put, the rise of food marking technology could mean the simultaneous improvement of environmental responsibility and food safety and security and a drastic reduction in food waste.
In addition to the peace of mind this brings to consumers, food safety, supply chain transparency, and accountability within the process can be assured to both consumers and regulators alike.
Tracepack offers full marking solutions for food producers and processors, with laser marking only one of our ‘nude food’ offerings.
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Globally, retailers and other businesses are beginning to recognise the damaging effects plastics have on the environment. Plastic is full of toxic compounds that are adding to an ever-increasing pollution crisis on land, sea, and air because unlike organic matter, plastic can take centuries to degrade.
A fruit sticker may seem an unlikely cause for environmental concern but removing it from food products could create huge savings in plastic, energy and CO2 emissions and with the move to item-level serialization on fruit and vegetables, allowing identification of each product unit instead of the packaging, is a powerful tool to fight counterfeiting and gives the consumer the ability to not only track the entire life cycle of the product through the supply chain but also allows product identification and a unique consumer engagement platform, thus enhancing the consumer experience.
According to World Health Organisation statistics, an estimated 600 million people in the world fall ill because of contaminated food. A shocking 420 000 of these cases result in deaths. The basis of most regulation and standard for food is quality and record-keeping or the traceability thereof, with the new regulation being enforced this does not only apply to the food premises but the environment throughout the entire supply chain of these products and requires a maintained traceability system and recall procedure is in place.
With the new regulation R638 being implemented there is an increase in supply chain transparency, accountability, and security. One key to achieving gains in all three areas lies in the ability to trace the source of foods and their ingredients, from farm to fork.