RFID ‘Traces’ Thailand Chicken, Mangoes

Articles
April 14, 2010

RFID ‘Traces’ Thailand Chicken, Mangoes

Given high levels of American consumer concerns about the freshness and safety of imported foods (read about our recent quick poll results), here’s some welcome news from an international trading partner.

Given high levels of American consumer concerns about the freshness and safety of imported foods (read about our recent quick poll results), here’s some welcome news from an international trading partner. 

Thailand, the world’s largest producer and exporter of canned tuna, chilled fish and prawns, and the #4 exporter of frozen chicken, has just begun to use a sensor-based system, with RFID tags and bar codes, to assign unique serial numbers to each batch of prepared chicken and mangoes it offers. 

Critical information stored on these tags includes where the food was farmed and processed, when it was shipped, how it was raised, and other details. This system developed by IBM and FXA provides traceability in the event of food-borne illness or contamination, to enable quicker, more targeted recalls that minimize the number of people affected. This system also gives freshness information such as the shipping date and shipping conditions.

This collaboration between technology partners IBM and FXA, and governmental agencies, Thailand’s Ministry of Agriculture and the Communications Authority of Thailand, is a welcome proactive step following President Obama’s focus on improving food safety in the United States.

“We must improve our food safety standards to meet or exceed the global market’s requreiment,” said Mr. Theera Wongsamut, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives in Thailand. With regard to the processed chicken and mangoes, the traceability technology from FXA tells which farm the food came from, where it was processed, and its current location and temperature. The smart sensor technology from IBM enables growers and producers to securely share information they collect on their products with shippers, retailers and other food producers to effectively track products as they move through the global supply chain.

The Lempert Report is glad to see this glimpse into the future of more responsible exporting. Clearly, the price of entry for exporting countries into the valuable U.S. consumer market has to include firm commitments to food safety and freshness, and full accountability. That hasn’t been the case until now. 

There are many questions to be worked out as to the cost viability of technologies such as these, and the ability of nations to truly cooperate in setting standards fostering consumer confidence and possibly opening markets wider.