Thursday, January 23, 2014


Supply chain logistics will have to ensure that perishable foods, especially those which are sensitive to high ambient temperatures, are not subjected to wide temperature fluctuations while in the store or during transit. As the life of these foods depends directly on the storage or package conditions, temperature monitoring can help to a great extent to determine how long they will stay in prime condition. A recently developed tool in the form of a thin film smart sensor when attached to a carton or a food packet is claimed to be capable of providing the details of temperature fluctuations to which the produce is exposed. Here is a take on this latest device which is expected to reach commercialization stage soon.

"Are you sure that the chicken you just bought has been kept cool from the time it left the plant to the moment you stuck it in your shopping cart? Well, you could be if it had one of Thinfilm Electronics' Smart Sensor Labels on the packaging. Currently still in prototype form, the temperature-tracking label features printed electronics, integrated batteries, an on/off switch and a simple display that indicates how many times (if any) it's been exposed to temperatures below 15ºC or above 45ºC (59ºF or 113ºF) – presumably other temperature thresholds could be programmed in as needed. If that label was attached to boxes or packaging containing perishable items, such as food or pharmaceuticals, users would be able to tell if the contents had been allowed to get too warm or too cool. The successful testing of the first fully-functioning Smart Sensor Label, which can be seen in the video below, was announced last week. Thinfilm hopes to have the first production labels ready for commercial use by the end of next year."

One wonders whether knowing the range of temperatures to which the food is exposed can really predict the extent of life remaining for it. Of course the retailer may be able to "guess" the number of days the produce will last without losing its characteristic quality. But what is needed further is a computer simulation program which can precisely predict how much damage has happened till it reaches the retailer and how long it can be kept in the shelf before being discarded.  


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