The accountancy firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) is developing an edible signature with an agent used in spices and powdered milk that promises to reveal how the animal was raised, what it ate and where it was processed.
The new electronic etching procedure is due to be launched in Australia and China within the next 12 months.
Once in widescale use, the technology should help regulators and shoppers avoid food fraud such as the horse meat scandal which rocked the British meat industry in 2013.
I for one am thrilled that PwC is focusing on things that really matter, as food fraud is serious business. I mean, how many times have you bitten into a delicious burger only to be defrauded by black beans and corn? If only there were some kind of advanced technology to prevent such a travesty, and if only an accounting firm were behind it because why not. Maybe next, PwC can address the burning issue of why everything tastes like chicken.
So how does it work? I wish I could tell you that interns will be in cramped freezers painsteakingly scribbling on pork butts with teeny-tiny Sharpies but nah, this is the future y’all. PwC still needs regulatory approval but the plan is to spray the meat with silicon dioxide, forming a kind of recognizable pattern which then can be deciphered by a specialized scanner. So it’s kind of like a barcode but … not. As Necia Wilden at Financial Review called it, “Shazam for your steak.”
For now, while the whole “hey can we spray your meat with chemicals so it can be tracked from field to fork” question is up in the air, the tag will only be deployed on the meat’s packaging. Eventually, it could be used to track cuts of meat through the entire production process.
Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is already used as an anti-caking agent in some foods. Now before you freak out and go BUT ADRIENNE WHAT ABOUT THOSE PACKETS OF SILICA GEL IN MY SHOEBOX THAT SAY DO NOT EAT, let me just calm those nerves and tell you that stuff is mostly harmless. The danger lies mostly in little kids choking on the stuff but kids are stupid anyway and can’t read so don’t worry about them. Still, don’t eat those packets.
Although this whole thing sounds like one big joke, PwC developed its Food Trust Programme as another way to bill clients “to contribute with ideas, methods, technologies and solutions to document, validate, strengthen and enhance the concept of identity of food that, as businesses, farmers or consumers, we treat every day – with the stated purpose of increasing its appreciation and trust.” Framed in that context, this “beef barcode” is just a way to bill clients to provide a solution that ensures chicken not only tastes like chicken but is chicken.
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