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European integrated info-box system for improved food safety and logistics

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Radio tracking from factory to fork

Rapid pinpointing of the source of a food scare is necessary to avoid a crisis. European researchers have developed a smart food box with a signal receiver transmitter to provide investigators with all the necessary tracking information.

Digital Economy

Public confidence in meat products has been shaken by meat scandals. Improvements in the logistics chain all the way to the supermarket would help to clean up the reputation of the industry. In particular, accurate information at each processing step would provide a way of tracking a suspect meat source. Researchers with the EU-funded IBOS project have developed an integrated info-box system to record important data about the product's treatment, for example, storage temperature. The new transport crate is a reusable box with a state-of-the-art radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag moulded into the plastic. Retailers, wholesalers and producers can follow the progress of the meat using the internet-accessible supply chain management system also developed by the IBOS project. The system identifies the meat by a code which means complete transparency from its factory beginning to the supermarket shelf. The tag emits a signal that can be read by a receiver. The transponder, the device that read signals as well as sends them out, means that data can also be input along the path. For example, the packing factory can add relevant information like weight of meat received and date. It can also be used in conjunction with bar codes. Nine thousand info-boxes were put through their paces to test the integrated IBOS at specific logistic stages. The trial made sure that use was optimal before commercialisation started. The transponder antenna worked successfully in harsh environments encountered in meat processing like low temperatures and high humidity. Data input is also fast as opposed to manual input, and more accurate. The new system dispenses with the need for paper documentation and data is less likely to be lost or mishandled. This is the first transponder that can deal with conditions in the perishable food logistics chain. It is even operational with liquids and can be used with other foods. Avoiding food scares are crucial in today's markets where the consumer has a long memory where instances of food poisoning are concerned.

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