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Sales of smart tags and labels such as radio frequency identification (RFID) devices will experience the fastest gains among food safety products, driven by their ability to providing traceability throughout the food supply chain, according to Foodproductiondaily.com. 

 Quoting market analysts Freedonia, the report says demand in the US for disinfection and diagnostic products focused on food safety is forecast to rise 6.7% per year to US$2.9 billion (NZ$4.09 billion) in 2014, with RFID tags in particular expected to post sales growth of 9.2% annually over the next four years to reach US$280 million. 

This prediction is based on the ever increasing use of RFID tags for inventory tracking and management, and they also report that the market for bar code labels and tags is becoming restrained both due to a levelling off of demand, as well as continued loss of market share to RFID tags. 

Processors are increasingly on the lookout for improved temperature measuring equipment for cold storage units, as regulators tighten restrictions over how foods should be safely stored, the report adds. 

Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of food quality, safety, origin and traceability, a factor which is exerting greater pressure on processors to keep track of every component in the manufacturing process. 

The report says among the food and beverage processing sectors, the largest share of food safety product demand will stem from the meat industry, with high growth expected in diagnostic testing products such as those used to detect Salmonella and E. coli, disinfectants and sanitizers, as well as disinfection equipment. 

In terms of RFID technology research work, a pioneering study is underway at the University of Manchester in the UK, which could result in lower food prices and less waste thanks to low-cost, smart sensors based on RFID devices. 

Scientists and engineers at the Syngenta Sensors University Innovation Centre (SSUIC) are developing smart sensors integrated with battery-free RFID tags that will allow more scientific ‘best before’ dates to be set by food producers and retailers. 

The sensors are being used to track and record real-time stresses suffered by perishable goods from farm gate to retailer’s shelf, according to the report. 

The tags, costing about 10 pence (NZ21 cents) to 20p compared with £20 for the current version, could lead to the wide scale deployment of the technology within three years.

 Dr Bruce Grieve, director of the SSUIC, was quoting as saying his team believes that fresh produce wastage could be minimised and costs recouped through real-time inventory management of produce, based upon accurate forecasts of shelf life on a box-by-box basis.

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