Food Safety - Temperature Sensitive Labels Destroy Barcodes

By on August 03, 2009

Recently packaging professionals were asked to rate the importance of 10 factors when developing new packaging, with a score of one indicating little effect and five a high effect. As in previous years, food safety is the top consideration, with cost, product protection and preservation following suit.

That’s not an amazing result really, as recent outbreaks of illnesses due to food borne pathogens such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes, propelled the growing importance of food safety among consumers and retailer interest in reducing losses from un-saleable products caused by oxidation and temperature abuse in the supply chain.

Although time-temperature labels are a well-known phenomena in the packaging industry, they all have the problem that the colour changes are not visible for the consumer, and that they go back to there original status in case the product goes back within the pre-set temperature range.

Tempix of Sweden currently launched a new temperature indicator that destroys barcodes on labels if the foodstuff or other temperature sensitive products are exposed to too high a temperature.
What is unique about the Tempix solution is that it is coupled to the barcode on the price tag. If the product has been exposed to too much heat, liquid flows over the barcode destroying it, making it illegible for the scanner.

The piece of goods reaches the customer, who by the naked eye can read off the Tempix temperature indicator. Furthermore, the bar-code becomes blocked if the product has been mistreated temperature-wise, which prevents purchase at the cash-counter.
The Tempix time/temperature indicator is built up from an absorbent (paper label) and a container/label cover including an activator. The activator migrates in the paper when the set temperature is exceeded and erases the bar-code and the optical signal bar after the time period stipulated. Temperature ranges between -30 to +30 °C (-22 to +86 °F) with an accuracy of ±0,5 °C (±0,9 °F).

The Tempix system is implemented in the ‘real-world’ by ICA (Inköpscentralernas aktiebolag), one of the leading retail business companies in Scandinavia with about 2 300 dealer-owned and own retail shops in Sweden and Norway. Since, according to the company, quality is a prestige word to them, it was natural to participate in the project for a new temperature indicator.
ICA likes the simplicity of the concept. When the label is on a product, shops are not required to invest.

Once the price and/or barcode label together with the indicator is placed on the goods, no advanced technical equipment is needed to control that the right temperature has been kept. Tempix reveals any shortcomings. The temperature indicator works both as a receipt and a guarantee. If something is wrong, it can be seen by the naked eye. For the consumer, the temperature indicator becomes a guarantee to have confidence in the shelf-life of the goods. For the partners in the supply chain the advantage is that the indicator automatically moves the responsibility for the product to the next stage in the chain. If it is unaffected upon delivery, accordingly, any problem must have occurred later. Hence, it is not possible to plead that something has happened at an earlier stage.

When you decide to create a dictionary, you know in advance that it never will be complete. Day-to-day life, developments and innovations create new products, words and abbreviations. Therefore the packaging dictionary I posted on my blog will be under perpetual construction, adding new definitions daily. However the result, as it is, is worth a visit. Looking for a definition in the wide world of packaging? Visit Packaging Dictionary at Best In Packaging.
Advice, suggestions, additions and comments are always welcome.

6 Comments

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As a manufacturer of Time Temperature Indicator labels, I need to make one correction in regards to the functionality of the Avery Dennison system. The Avery TT Sensor does not change back to its original color once the color has changed. By having this feature Avery is able to provide a clear indication to the retailer and/or consumer that there has been a disruption during the distribution process. For more information please Google "Avery TT Sensor"
Catching more temperature compromised product is not going to reduce retailer expenses. It should increase it. However, retailers do not actually absorb the costs of expired product - they receive a steady manufacturer allowance for such an occurrence. Embedding temperature sensitivity in barcodes is an exciting technology. Several companies have been offering solutions to incapacitate the barcode including Sira and Safetyscribe. However, these solutions can be problematic in a retail environment. Essentially, when we created front-end systems, we assumed some barcodes would fail. So we created an over-ride procedure. Give it try: take a marker to your local grocery, discretely mark out a portion of the barcode, and take it to the front end. The cashier will overcome a failed barcode within seconds and you will have a potentially fresh piece of meat for dinner. Thanks for the report.
Steven, there is no system available, neither in TT-technology, nor in counterfeiting, which is 100% proof. There is always a way to 'override' or trick the system. Nevertheless the disappearing barcode is easy to signal by the consumer, whether at the cash counter or on the shelf. Cashiers might be able to overcome the disappeared barcode, but there is a difference between a failing barcode and a disappeared one signalling something is wrong with the product.
Answering the Avery comment, I must say, that indeed I should have used the word 'almost'. At the other hand, although Avery lables don't change back, I am not impressed by the system, as it is too easy for the consumer to miss the signal, while the disappearing barcode is signalled at the cash counter.
the barcode technology is a good one, FDA should pass a policy including all the industries to apply this technology to their products also. www.learn2serve.com/food-safety-training
When it really comes to food safety I would not recommend PP trays - they can break easily. XPS or EPS trays is a much better solution. WWW.AMPACPACKAGING.NET < they offer really worthy solutions.