Can Tagged Food Be Tracked in the Home?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsCan Tagged Food Be Tracked in the Home?
RFID Journal Staff asked 15 years ago

Is it possible for food items with radio frequency identification tags on their packaging to be tracked from a grocery store all the way to a person's home?

—Name withheld


Tags can only be read where there is an RFID interrogator, so unless supermarket chains deploy readers at the homes of those they serve, the answer would be no. Retailers could one day offer a service by which customers could opt in to have all or some of what they purchase linked to their loyalty or credit card, so that they could be alerted if a specific product they bought is recalled.

At present, few food products are tracked with RFID. Food can be among the hardest items to tag, because many foods—fruit, meat, dairy products—are mainly water, and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags are hard to read on items with a high water content. These problems can be overcome with special tags or tagging techniques, but most stores are not moving in this direction, because the items are too inexpensive to justify the use of a tag that might cost 20 cents or more apiece.

Additionally, any supermarket that does offer an opt-in program would need to educate its customers and ensure that their personal data is protected, and not used in ways consumers are uninformed about.

—Mark Roberti, Editor, RFID Journal

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