The FDA is about to release information to farmers, wholesalers, and retailers on how to build tracking systems to trace contaminated foods back to where it originated. The FDA has a March 2010 deadline for enforcing standards using RFID technology in pharmaceuticals, and it makes sense to recommend a similar approach in food production.
Bar codes are already an important part of the traceability solution in food production, and adding RFID allows data capture without a great deal of human labor. Instead of tracking individual lots of food items at every point of the supply chain using bar code scanners, RFID can capture the standardized data without human intervention. Adding RFID technology would not increase labor costs, and would also be more effective than bar codes in the conditions found in farming environments. In addition, low-cost sensors able to detect when food is exposed to unacceptable temperature levels are emerging that will add to the safety aspect of food production.
According to the RFID Journal, Hawaii has already put into place this technology, using EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to monitor food and trace back contaminated products to farms. And several governments, such as Canada and Australia, have mandated the use of RFID to track livestock.
Improving food safety, reducing waste, and facilitating recalls can all be effected using today’s RFID technology. It makes sense for the FDA to apply the same standards and technologies used in healthcare and pharmaceuticals to the food industry.