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Phone Food Warning System Trialed

Posted January. 16, 2007 03:01,   


“This product’s expiration date is October 31, 2008. It is on a recall list now, so please change it at your nearest retail store.”

Mr. K, who works for an information technology company as a researcher, just returned from his long-term six-month business trip overseas on November 20, 2008. One day, he happened to find several bags of instant noodles and instant rice that were stacked in the corner of his office as he looked for something to eat to quell his hunger while working late at night to write his business trip report. But as he brought his mobile phone to the RFID attached to the noodle bag, a text message popped up saying its expiration date has been passed.

This is not from a science fiction movie. It’s a trial project under way, and as early as next year, it would be a fait accompli in life from next year. It invites users to the ubiquitous world where consumers get to know all the information on manufacturing and distribution of their products anytime, anywhere.

Specifics Including the Shelf Life and Possible Recall-

All this has become possible thanks to the launch of a “Food Product Tracking and Genealogy system.”

The Korea Foods Industry Association (KFIA) developed the system with support from the Ministry of Information and Communications and the National Information Society Agency to track causes of food safety accidents in a fast and accurate way. It was also designed to provide accurate product information to consumers. Cooking recipes are expected to be included later on.

Rather Complicated System Operation Methods –

First of all, a manufacturer attaches the RFID tag on a product package which contains the place of origin for the ingredients or raw materials, the production or manufacturing process, the shelf life and other product information. All this is stored in a mega computer installed in the KFIA.

In addition, detailed information on the distribution process is recorded. The distribution information from the delivery from the production factory through an intermediary wholesaler and a logistics company to a large mall or supermarket is transferred to the KFIA via the RFID. Consumers would then identify the accumulated information via a RFID readable device to be installed in a large retail store or supermarket or their mobile phone equipped with a RFID reader.

To be Launched Starting Next Year with the Device in the Latter Half -

The KFIA successfully completed the trial project on the system with the participation of four food companies, namely CJ, Nongshim, Paris Croissant and Dongwon F&B, and two logistical distributors, DongWon Industries Lorence and Mega Mart in December last year.

Manager Min Sung-shik at the planning and promotion department at the KFIA said, “Trial businesses will be additionally conducted two or three times in April and in the latter half of the year and the service will be provided in fully swing from next year.”

Furthermore, mobile communications companies including SK Telecom and KTF are reportedly expected to launch mobile phone devices equipped with RFID readability function in the latter half of this year, currently concentrating on the last phase of the development process.

Deputy general manager, Choi Ho-min at the Nongshim promotion team said, “Positive feedbacks on the trial business came from consumers,” adding, “They seem to have been appealed by the instant identification of all the processes from production to distribution.” Most of the companies are positive about the full-scale operation feasibility.

The Flaw of RFID’s High Manufacturing Cost –

And yet there is a long way to go.

First of all, the manufacturing cost of the RFID is high and also it is burdensome for SMEs to be equipped with related infrastructure. Executive director, Kim Eun-tae at KPC, an expert company of RFID which led the efforts in developing the Food Product Tracking and Genealogy system, predicted, “It would take about three years for the manufacturing cost to be lowered enough to be applied to all products.”

Another need is to promptly come up with related legislations and institutions to enable active usage of the system.

Official Choi Kyu-ho at the Food Policymaking Team at the Ministry of Health and Welfare said, “Transaction records of those involved in food-related businesses and their transactions are subject to be stored and the amendment bills for the Food Sanitation Act and Food Safety Laws have been submitted to the National Assembly.”