Bar the Food fraud with bar Codes!
Bar the Food fraud with bar Codes! | Credit: Food Engineering

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Bar the Food fraud with bar Codes!

Nov 27, 2018

Did you know Food ranks in the top five most valuable in the counterfeit markets? It’s true.The global anti-counterfeiting market is rising at a fast rate to counter this threat of fake foods.

food barcode information
food barcode information

How Do They Do It?

Food fraud can be done in different ways.

One such form is Adulteration. They substitute one constituent/ingredient with much cheaper ones for economic gain.

Another is Misrepresentation. A good example would be selling a product as organic (when it’s not!), something you would have seen in some supermarkets, and then hiking up the price. Sometimes, they would say it’s from a specific country when it surely is NOT and is a fake!

Is It A New Thing?

No, it is not.

Food fraud is a well-documented crime that has existed in the U.S. and Europe for many decades. Numerous cases of intentional food fraud have been discovered over the last few years.

The foods that were mostly adulterated or mislabeled in the United States were: milk, olive oil, honey, saffron,tea, seafood, liquids, spices, fruits, vegetables and meat products.

Really! So, How Do They Combat This?

For any food business to grow and sell high-quality food products, it requires the Trust of a consumer.

  • Knowing what the product is,
  • Where it’s come from,
  • How and through whose hands this food has passed,

- are some of the importantinformation that is required for aconsumer’s trust and confidence in a product. It is a legal requirement too.

On top of it, food scares like the Horsemeat Scandaland others led regulatory boards to set up new rules that require food industries to show a great deal of information that consumers want to seeon the food label.

Where Do Barcodes Come Into The Picture?

Barcodes help to provide safetyagainst fraudulent behaviorthat is done to the entire food supply chain, especially when you are tracking, authenticating and locating these products.

What Is It?

A barcode is an optical, representation of data, which is, machine-readable. This black and white striped sticker encodes information about the product that can be easily scanned, which will then speed up the checkout process and make logistics easier.

barcode scanner
barcode scanner

Barcodes, in the beginning, represented data by varying the parallel line’s spacing and widths, and these are known as linear or one-dimensional (1D). 

Later, Two-dimensional (2D) codes were developed, using rectangles, dots, hexagons and other geometric patterns in two dimensions. They are still called barcodes even though they do not use bars as much.

How Do We Scan Barcodes?

Barcodes were scanned only using special optical scanners called barcode readers, initially (they still are). Later on, mobile apps were developed to scan them using any smartphones with cameras.

Once, the barcodes are scanned, the scanner device or the scanning application will then search the database to search for the product with a similar barcode and then will display all the information required.

The traditional 1D barcodes are used most often by companies to track product coming from the source through delivery at the food manufacturing facility, to packaging. All the goods come in dated with lot codes, which are scanned upon plant entry, throughout all internal stages and later into the supply chain market.

The usage of the 2D barcode is also growing. Three-dimensional codes offer a colored pattern 2D barcode. Smaller or even invisible barcode technology encourages clean labeling, clear packaging, and imperceptibly embedded codes.

However, 1D barcodes remain prominent and continue to anchor track and trace technology.

Is That All?

Not quite. Another approach to combat food tainting and increase trace ability is DNA barcoding. The genetic markers taken from the product are used to identify its species exactly.

Present Situation

The barcode, in itself,has also been developed into modern variations, like the GS1 data bar, or QR codes – a square barcode that can contain more information than before.It can actually have pictures, videos and more.

It is popularized by apps that allow smartphones to scan and process them with built-in cameras.

Even though, barcodes are presently the most economical way of storing and transmitting this information, the supply chains, and consumers will demand more information in the future.

Hence there’s the potential to create a new approach that could offer all this additional information to the consumer and retailers such as batch information, sell-by dates, and so on that can help them tackle fraud and wastage.