The RFID Industry Misses the Boat on Food Safety

The Obama Administration plans to spend $1 billion on food safety, but the RFID industry is not explaining why some of that money should go to track-and-trace technologies.
Published: June 6, 2012

Last week, someone from a technology company sent me an e-mail containing a link to President Barack Obama’s weekly radio address on Mar. 14, in which the president made several important announcements: the appointments of Dr. Margaret Hamburg as commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein as the principal deputy commissioner, as well as the creation of a Food Safety Working Group (see WEEKLY ADDRESS: President Barack Obama Announces Key FDA Appointments and Tougher Food Safety Measures). The working group is charged with upgrading and enforcing food safety laws.

The e-mail noted, “He does not mention ‘mass serialization,’ ‘serialization,’ ‘serial,’ ‘visibility,’ ‘traceability’ or even ‘recall!'” It then went on to ask, “Is the automatic identification community missing out on one of the biggest revenue opportunities in years, by not forcing these words into the public debate? Is the community going to stand by and let the president and other politicians paint the picture that food-safety problems will disappear if we merely add more inspectors?”

Yes, it apparently is. Just as the auto-ID industry missed out on the stimulus money to upgrade infrastructure. I’m as frustrated about this as my correspondent is.

I recently wrote to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman to try to get him interested in a technology that could not only make the food supply safer, but also dramatically reduce waste in the global food chain. According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, half of all food is never consumed. We could feed all of the hungry on Earth if we could just significantly reduce waste.

IBM, at least, is trying to influence the debate. Check out this food safety video at, featuring my buddy Paul Chang. Why aren’t more smart people—and companies with track-and-trace solutions—getting the word out regarding how to secure the food supply chain?

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.