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Laser Labeling of Fruits and Vegetables

New laser labels. Photo: ARS/USDA.

New laser labels. Photo: ARS/USDA.

Slashfood talks about etching product information directly onto fruits and vegetables. This strikes me as useful but odd.

When I’m buying fruits and vegetables, I would love to see this. It’s not the description itself that appeals to me as with a little help from a simple shelf label I can figure out what variety of fruit I’m buying. What I would like to see is some kind of freshness date and possibly some way of tracing the history of a given fruit or vegetable. I’d like to be able to type in the id number and find out that this tomato was picked on January 10, 2009 in California and has been sitting in a delivery truck for the last few months. Maybe I could avoid some of my bad luck with fruit rotting the minute I get it home.

I can see a few downsides to this right off. First, what is the cost of this going to be? I don’t care about the history of my tomato enough to pay a couple dollars extra for it. If it’s tasty, that’s good enough for me. Second, will this produce a COOL-style debacle where farms get shut down because they don’t happen to be in this year’s hot-spot for tomato production? Third, how will this impact the aesthetics of the fruits and vegetables? I want a nice looking tomato, not one with a huge tattoo that lets me know it was grown on Tom’s Tomato Farm in London, Ontario, lovingly picked by Peter Piper, and delivered to my local store by Sam’s Shipping.

It’s a fun idea, but it doesn’t seem useful at this point. Use a sticker and be done with it.