What is That You’re Eating?

I’ve written previously about how RFID can be used 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 can you be sure where this came from?

So, you’re paying for wild salmon at your favorite grocery store.  Are you sure?  How about those free range chicken breasts?

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.  You can learn more about some of these benefits here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

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From NPR: Tissue Tracking and Health Risks

During my drive to the office this morning I heard an interesting story on NPR’s Morning Edition titled Little Regulation Poses Problems Tracking Tissue.  You can listen to or read the entire story here.  According to the story, each year in the United States, almost 1.5 million medical products are used  for surgeries made with tissue taken from cadavers.  Despite this vast number, fortunately there have been few issues or problems so far associated with using human tissue but, when there is an issue, it can be tricky to catch and the consequences can be life threatening.

1.5 million medical products are used each year for surgeries made with human tissue

The story describes a case where tissue contaminated with Hepatitis C was accidentally distributed for use by patients.  Hospitals had to be alerted and the race was on to find where the tissue had been sent.  The story states: In this case, 44 ligaments, tendons and other donated tissue were sent to hospitals and clinics around the country. Unlike organs, which are quickly transplanted, tissue can be saved and stored for use at a much later date. A month later [Italics are mine], the CDC found 15 people already had been implanted, but didn’t contract the disease. That’s because their tissue was scrubbed with strong chemicals. But there was one infection: A child in Boston received a heart patch, and because heart tissue can be cleaned only lightly, that child contracted Hepatitis C. The child’s current health condition hasn’t been made public.

According to the story, the FDA says it continues to evaluate the need for new regulations and has started requiring tissue banks to do limited tracking but, once the tissue is sold to hospitals, clinics and doctors, it is voluntary for those surgeons to report back what tissue gets transplanted into which patient.  And, as the business grows globally and tissue comes to the U.S. from countries around the world, keeping track of tissue is even harder.

Matthew Kuehnert, a doctor at the CDC whose job it is to protect donated blood, organs and tissue suggests the process of receiving tissue should be similar to buying cereal at the grocery store.  Said Kuehnert, “It has a bar code on it, and it can be tracked back if there is some sort of problem with it in terms of quality,” he says. “You can’t do that with tissue right now. And that is a gap.”

While I get where Dr. Kuehnert is going with his cereal analogy, I think it comes up a bit short.  Unlike cereal, tissue is temperature sensitive.  You not only need to be able to track where it has come from and where it is going but also monitor and track the condition that it’s been stored in along the way.  If tissue isn’t stored at the right temperature, it can also cause problems that can lead to health implications.  Bar codes can’t monitor for that. Fortunately, RFID temperature sensors can, while also storing the information about the tissue and help improve track and trace capabilities.  You can read about this here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Returnable Transport Items – Where is the Next Big Win?

I was recently on vacation along the Oregon coast and took a photo that I’ve been quite anxious to share.  There, along the beautiful, pristine beach, where sea lions gather and people search for seashells, I found this:

Just what every beautiful beach needs, a pallet.

A beautiful wooden pallet.  Lost track of.  Serving no purpose.  Cluttering the landscape. Wasting some company’s money. So, when I see an article about the benefits of Returnable Transport Items (RTIs) such as plastic pallets, totes, containers and bins, I pay particular notice.  There are many benefits of moving from wooden or cardboard packaging including improved sanitation, less waste and the potential for implementing close loop systems that can improve profitability.  This morning I came across an article titled Reusables – Where is the Next Big Win?  It talks about the increasing use of RTIs by leading retailers such as Safeway and Kroger and how they’re able to improve operations based on switching to plastic-based returnable, reusable solutions.

Another interesting article Boosting Supply Chain Efficiencies with Reusable Transport Packaging by Justin Lehrer of StopWaste.org elaborates on the benefits when it comes to shipping produce and again references Kroger and Safeway and the benefits they’re seeing from the shift away from legacy transport items.

But is that the next big win?  The movement to RTIs is already underway and demand for them is increasing. Rather, we think the next big win is making RTIs intelligent by integrating temperature sensor devices directly into the pallets, containers, totes and bins.  By adding the ability to monitor and manage the condition of perishable goods such as produce, meats, poultry and pharmaceuticals as they move through the supply chain, growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers can make decisions about how to pack, bundle and distribute goods more efficiently.  The result is that more food is delivered fresh and more pharmaceuticals are received safe and effective for use.  The result becomes not simply less waste in packaging but less waste in the goods in the package or container.  (You can learn more about our RTI solutions here.)

Hats off to pioneers like Safeway and Kroger for innovating and looking at new ways to solve old problems that reduce waste and (along the way) help keep things like wooden pallets off the beach.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Study Documents RFID Safe for Biopharmaceuticals

A study published this week in the July/August edition of the Parenteral Drug Association’s PDA Journal documents research that showed that in vitro test results for more than 100 biopharmaceutical products from eight major drug companies demonstrated no non-thermal effect by radio frequency radiation.

RFID is OK for Tracking and Monitoring Biopharmaceuticals

What does this mean?  The research conducted by researchers at The University of South Florida, Blood Center of Wisconsin, Abbott, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Madison RFID Lab at the University of Wisconsin documents that using RFID in conjunction with biologics is safe.  The thermal effects of RFID on biologics have been well understood (no impact) but there had, to this point, been limited research on the non-thermal effects (RF radiation) of RFID on product integrity.

Why is this important? Pending ePedigree laws in California (going into effect in 2015 and ultimately impacting the entire industry) are likely to require a combination of RFID and 2D barcoding systems.  Some had questioned whether or not RFID was safe to use for these types of applications but this report (available to PDA members on the PDA website) demonstrates RFID’s safety, enabling technology companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, shippers, 3PLs and health care providers to move forward more aggressively on developing solutions for ePedigree and documenting the safe and authentic shipments of biopharmaceutical products.  But, RFID can add even more value.  Temperature sensor RFID tags, beyond providing the ability to document track and trace records for ePedigree can also be used to monitor and manage the temperature (and related safety and efficacy) of drugs as they move through the supply chain to reduce waste and improve cold chain operations.

You can learn more about Intelleflex solutions for pharmaceuticals here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing