Recently, Europe is engulfed in horsemeat scandal — spot checks conducted by Irish beef inspectors led consumers across Europe to realize that they might not be getting beef when purchasing beef products. In fact, one inspection found that about a third of hamburger meat was composed of horsemeat, and not beef. This case is evidence that the global food supply chain is just too complex to monitor without RFID and other technologies.
The issue here is simple: It is expensive to track every animal using pen and paper, inspect every animal crossing borders, and create a chain of custody showing where the meat used in a particular product originated.
The world’s food supply chain crisscrosses countries and continents. Monitoring billions of dollars’ worth of food moving from one place to another is impossible with the systems currently being used. This leaves gaping holes for unscrupulous businesses to exploit, potentially putting tens of thousands of people at risk.
The time has come to use RFID and other automatic data-capture technologies to monitor animals and food shipments. Small farms may say that they can’t afford the technology. But tags are becoming cheaper, and there are systems hosted in the cloud that enable users to read tags via their mobile phones and then upload that information, so it can be shared with business partners and government regulators.
If there’s an international effort to standardize both RFID’s use for food tracking and the systems utilized for sharing data, the cost will be a lot less than the cost of having people swear off beef because they no longer trust that what they get is pure and safe.