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March 14, 2012

HarvestMark QR Codes Lead to Food Safety Information

The Weekly Newsline

by James McCormac, The Weekly Newsline Editor | March 13, 2012

The Weekly Newsline is a California Avocado Society, Inc. publication. The views expressed in this excerpt from the article titled "Opinion from an Eclectic's Notebook," are those of the publication's editor.

"My wife and I picked up a bag of 'sweet mini peppers' the other day at Costco. They look about the size and shape of jalapeños but have the crispness and sweetness of bell peppers.

"On the front of the package there was the usual bar code used by retailers to scan the product at the checkout counter. On the back of the package was a sticker that said 'trace me' along with a QR code.

"QR is the acronym for 'quick response' code. It is a two dimensional bar code developed by Toyota to assist traceability in the manufacturing of their automobiles and trucks. The use of QR codes has grown to other industries and can be found frequently in magazine advertising as a means to get readers further involved in a product.

"The reason for the growth of QR codes is that anyone with a 'smartphone' is able to use it as a bar code reader. And, this brings me back to the story of the mini peppers. Using my cell phone and the appropriate 'app,' I was led to the HarvestMark website. There I learned that my peppers had no safety issues reported. The peppers came from Sinaloa, Mexico, and were grown on the Guasave farm of Exportadora Agricola Sacramento. I also was offered an advertisement by the marketing company — Royal Flavor Greenhouse — espousing the wonders of the agricultural products they offer and the assurance that their efforts are certified by Primus Labs.

"There is a message in all of this for avocado growers. It is that we are living in the information age. The rapid dissemination of, and access to, information is driving the food safety movement. For example, the incidences of food borne illnesses may not be any more common today than they were a decade ago, but the public awareness of such outbreaks is exponentially higher today. Such awareness is demanding responses. Produce retailers are seeking assurances from their suppliers about traceability and food safety procedures. The government is responding to public pressure to safeguard the food supply. And growers are responding to enhance the marketability of their produce."