GPS-based codes tested for vegetable traceability in China

Chinese researchers have piloted a coding system for vegetable products that includes the producers' geographic location.

Writing in the journal Food Control (August 2016), the team describe a system which includes the use of an identification code (IdC) that includes the GPS coordinates of the item's origin, along with a production code and an encrypted authentication code.

The 20-digit traceability code has been trialled in the city of Tianjin since 2012 - with regulatory authorities, producers and customers all included in the pilot - and according to the researchers is intended to enhance current coding systems which they say provide "weak anti-counterfeit functions."

The team from the Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Science and Tianjin Rural Affairs Committee Information Centre say the online platform relies on data inputted by the vegetable producers and audited and certified by supervisory authorities.

The IdCs are allocated to the producers and incorporated in QR codes that are then printed on labels and pasted onto the item during harvesting/packaging, with the data uploaded to an online authentication system (OAS).

The supervisory agency can use a mobile app to scan the QR code on the product upon inspection in the supply chain and determine whether the item is genuine.

The report on the pilot acknowledges that while most participants gave a favourable assessment of the system, some raised questions about the cost of implementation and also the reliability of the authentication platform.

Changes to the management and supervision architecture could improve the reliability of system, they suggest.

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