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International Group Tests RFID for Food Safety to Hawaii

The project is using radio frequency identification and GPS technologies to track the temperature and location of produce as it is shipped from Taiwan and California to Armstrong Produce, a food company in Honolulu.
By Claire Swedberg
During the trial from Taiwan, the sensors detected a rise in temperature on the truck as products were transported from the packing facility (at which the cartons were loaded onto pallets) to the pier. However, they recorded a very consistent temperature onboard ship.

The reusable ARKNAV unit utilized during the pilot cost approximately $1,500. For the next pilot, Ryan says he hopes to use a less expensive GPS and cellular tamper-detecting unit (possibly a modified version of the CT-X8 unit)—this time with a built-in RFID reader—that would make adopting a tracking solution more affordable for transportation or food companies. The goal, he says, is to have the Zen Sensing devices transmit data via BAP RFID tags to the container-tracking unit, thereby enabling the contamination and explosive sensors to be read wirelessly from multiple locations within the container. Pilot participants are scheduled to meet in March 2012 to look at initial modifications to the units, he says, after which the pilot would then be scheduled.

If RFID is implemented for the food supply chain, Ryan says, food safety would be "driven upstream" from the retailer, by tracking the temperatures to which fresh produce and other food is exposed after being harvested. In the event that food were found to be spoiled, it would be possible to identify the conditions causing that spoilage.

In addition, Ryan Systems is piloting the Intelleflex temperature-sensing tags on shipments of produce between three of the Hawaiian Islands, from one Armstrong warehouse to another, and to the store. That pilot is ongoing, and does not include the ARKNAV unit. The tags are being attached to plastic pallets—rather than to cartons, as was the case during the Taiwanese and California pilots—and are read using Motorola 9090-G handhelds as the products are loaded into and unloaded from containers.

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