Smart labels offer cheap traceability

By Sarah Britton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Label

Manufacturers could soon benefit from a cheap smart label traceability system, which is being developed by researchers at Leatherhead Food...

Manufacturers could soon benefit from a cheap smart label traceability system, which is being developed by researchers at Leatherhead Food International (LFI).

“We are working on a project part-funded by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to develop a cost-effective, chemical-based smart labelling system,” said LFI forum liaison officer for food quality and analysis John Haines.

He is currently looking at traceability through the supply chain and technologies used to measure temperature, moisture content and gas levels. “The aim is to develop a label, which gives information on one, or a combination of parameters,” he said. “We plan to link it to a calendar system, so that manufacturers and retailers can trace the exact time and date that product abuse occurs.”

There are electronic versions of this system but, unlike chemical-based systems, they can be expensive, he explained. “You can negate the cost by labelling each pallet, or each load, instead of individual products, but the further away you get from a product, the less reliable the indicator is. Cost is a big issue in this area and the label we are working on is affordable enough to be used on individual products.”

Research is primarily focused on refrigerated foods. “If there is even a slight variation in temperature, the growth rate of pathogens can increase dramatically,” claimed Haines.

“At the moment, we’re working on the initial technology. We’re looking at different dyes and polymers, which are capable of indicating product quality via colour reactions,” he said.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2009.