Research Area

Food, Veterinary and Agriculture


Stacey Kelly


Gerard Corkery

Justin Carton

Shane Ward

Maeve Cushen

Liam Brennan

Resource Files

PDF Flyer


Food Labelling Country of Origin Tamper Proof Food Authenticity Food Traceability


Tamper-proof food traceability through direct imprinting of smartphone-readable data matrices onto food.

Owing to the growing concern nationally and internationally regarding food traceability and the authenticity of food products (their origin, processing and downstream delivery and storage), emphasis on tamper proof mechanisms of reliably determining this information is paramount within the food sector. Country of Origin and method of reading are major issues for the food industry, regulatory bodies and the consumer alike, particularly for internationally traded foods such as meat. Labels can be tampered with and products repackaged undermining consumer confidence and putting the consumer at risk of health related issues. To address these issues, researchers within University College Dublin have developed a novel labelling system based on the direct laser imprinting of data matrix or other formats onto a food product such as chicken breast fillets, prime beef cuts etc, using a novel food grade marking system. Using this technology, it affords the food processor, the retailer and the consumer the opportunity to access on-the-spot (real time) product information thus offering a secure tamper-proof food traceability systems for both local and global use.
How It Works
Labelling of food products has become increasingly important both for quality control and to indicate to consumers the provenance of foodstuffs. While food packaging labels can provide a degree of assurance to consumers, in some cases it would be preferable for a food product itself to be labelled directly. While food compatible adhesive labels can be employed, these can possibly be tampered with or removed. For some products it is possible to apply a label directly by ink-jetting food grade ink directly onto the product, to provide either human or machine readable indicia. Whilst this approach is useful for solid and dry food products or shelled products, such an approach is less useful for hydrous or oily products such as meat or fish due to leaching of ink into the product, rendering the label illegible.
Professor Ward and his team have identified a unique method for employing a novel food grade label directly onto such material and in so doing providing a highly legible, identifiable method of tracking the provenance of such foodstuffs. By employing a unique food grade data matrix imprint directly onto meat using laser technology, the resultant data matrix information can be readily interpreted using image analysis software typically found on smartphone devices, whilst overcoming the undesirable leaching effect. This technology enables verifiable traceability extending right down the food supply chain from the food processor to the consumer, ensuring a robust integral chain of custody is achieved.
US patent application 62/067,497 Filed 23rd October 2014
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