48 Million US Cases of Food-Borne Illness in 2010 Push Industry toward RFID-enabled Food Safety Systems

Oyster Bay, New York - 15 Apr 2011

According to the Centers for Disease Control, some 48 million cases of illness in the United States each year are caused by spoiled or contaminated food. Many of these come from fresh produce that is consumed in its raw state. Two ways to ameliorate this “epidemic” are to improve our control over the conditions in which food is kept as it moves from farm to consumer markets, and to enhance the traceability of food shipments within the supply chain.

New US legislation (The Food Safety Modernization Act) focuses on the establishment of industry-wide data standards for this information, and requires the FDA to develop and publish regulations that address the prevention of foodborne disease outbreaks.

According to ABI Research principal analyst Bill Arnold, “RFID systems with temperature sensors can contribute to less tainted produce and provide the same standards-based tracing, while delivering information that could prevent as much as $35 billion/year in wasted produce.”

Once the initial FDA trials – to be conducted in partnership with industry associations such as the United Fresh Produce Association for produce and the American Meat Institute for fresh meats – are completed, the question will be: which stakeholders in the industry will actually buy and use these systems?

“That is a very big question,” says Arnold. “It is of most benefit to food retailers, but they don't control the harvest point or the shipper, so it's a matter of who decides they either have the clout or the ability to make it happen. Self-interest and liability limitation will be the motivators. In some cases large retail chains will buy RFID systems and require their suppliers to use them. In other cases, large food brands such as Dole, Hawaiian Tropic, Chiquita and others may invest to promote their food freshness and safety, allowing them to justify a premium price.”

ABI Research’s new “RFID-enabled Food Safety and Traceability Systems” study reviews the Food Safety Modernization Act’s  impact on food-industry use of Auto ID technology in both the short and intermediate terms. It provides forecasts for the use of RFID-enabled data logging devices from 2010 through 2015 in cold chain applications.

This report is part of the RFID Research Service.

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