Picture this: a manufacturer has issued a recall on its hamburger meat. Employees at a grocery store are scrambling to clear the shelves of contaminated products. But which packages of meat are contaminated, and which are still safe? It would take too much time to find out now. The reputation of the store could be destroyed if contaminated products aren’t recalled quickly. Time to pull every package from the shelves, just to be safe.
This approach, while it certainly saves lives, is inefficient and wasteful. Recalls cost a company $10 million on average in brand damage and lost sales. With proper food safety technology, food can be tracked in a manner that allows manufacturers to easily identify contaminated products. Lives are still saved, but they are saved more quickly and with less effort. RFID is one technology that provides these solutions to food safety issues.
What is RFID?
RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is a data collection method that sends and receives information between tags and readers using low-power radio waves. RFID is more efficient than traditional identification methods, such as barcode scanning, because it can scan hundreds of tags at once.
Types of RFID Tags
Passive, ultra-frequency tags, or RAIN RFID, are the most cost-effective and commonly used tags. They require a powered reader to reflect and transmit their signal.
Active, Wi-Fi-based tags provide real-time location information by using their own internal power supply to relay signals to standard wireless access points. These tags have a much greater read range than passive RAIN tags.
The downside to Wi-Fi-based tags is that they are expensive. Thankfully, there is a cost-effective alternative. Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) tags collect the same real-time information as Wi-Fi tags, but they are even easier to implement. While Wi-Fi tags require new infrastructure and several wireless access points, BLEs only need a connection to a Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone, to transmit signals.
Different types of tags have different uses. Passive tags are best for tracking large volumes of low-cost items, while active tags are ideal for tracking high-value, low-volume assets. Hybrid RFID systems, however, can be used for both low-cost/high-volume and high-cost/low-volume assets.
RFID and Food Safety
RFID can collect and utilize specific product information in compliance with regulations such as Food Safety Management Act (FSMA). It tracks when products were produced, which lines they were produced on, which machines were used, and more.
In addition, RFID can monitor temperature, humidity, and motion, allowing manufacturers to more easily trace food safety issues to specific products, change expiration dates, and pull specific products from shelves if needed. In the event of a recall, RFID technology allows manufacturers to quickly identify and pull just the affected products from shelves, instead of pulling all products.
RFID technology provides the traceability needed to monitor and identify contaminated products. Combined with other methods such as barcode scanning, RFID is a promising solution to minimize recalls, maintain consumer trust, and save companies.