Featured post

Why FoodWrite Ltd ?

Welcome !

FoodWrite Ltd. loves helping businesses achieve their market potential and improve their profits !

FoodWrite Ltd. provides consultancy on technologies and markets for the food and beverages industry, and in related industries such as personal care, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, resources, biochemical engineering and nutritional healthcare.  Food and nutrition ingredients, dietary and health supplements, and animal products are all core areas of expertise.

♦ FoodWrite Ltd writes web-content and has increased web-site rankings simply by providing high quality written material to support sales and marketing. It also offers SEO, website development in WordPress, PHP and Magento.

♦ FoodWrite Ltd brings together all the skills needed for creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation and quality of advice in helping businesses develop their strategies for growth.

It covers:-

– technical writing, and both scientific and commercial bid proposals,

– product marketing, 

– consumer consultancy,

– product concepts and development

– provides high quality technology analysis, updates, action plans and reports based on data and scientific literature.  

♦ It also offers technology scouting, identifying partners for collaboration, business and market development, and a B2B strategy for emerging technologies in food science and processing.

♦ It  provides product documentation and specification services coupled with technical market research to the food industry. White papers and marketing materials to support web-sites are a speciality and a number of clients use this service including the copyright more than any.

FoodWrite Ltd. helps a range of companies, from multinational manufacturers and suppliers, venture capital firms to research organisations and to smaller companies.  The consultancy draws upon great technical skills and knowledge coupled with management insight to provide a comprehensive service.

♦ We help customers realise their potential by providing support, expertise, support and advice to encourage best practice and continuous improvement. 

FoodWrite Ltd. started in 2011. Communication with the client is the heart of the service, ensuring we work closely to deliver all your milestones on time. You may be starting a food business or trying to understand the market place for a technology, please be confident that your project is managed professionally. Project proposals are generated ensuring all steps, their costs and timings are clear and transparent. The advice is high quality and tailored to your needs with progress updates provided as required. The knowledge has helped clients develop their intellectual property (IP), or otherwise supported their investment decisions in new markets or technology. 

♦ Checkout the case studies on this web-site.

♦ Give us a call or e-mail and use FoodWrite Ltd‘s experiences to open up new markets, meet the challenges you face and add value to your business.  Telephone consultancy is also available.  Our passion is to provide answers that can be actionable and to work closely with you

Lets transform your business at an affordable cost. If you are interested in other topics to be written about- just let me know !

Contact: 4, Bowens Hill, Coleford. Glocs. GL16 8DH  T: 01594 810704 M: 07714101039

Clients we work with:

GSK-logo suntorygeneral-mills[1]04509c8[1]  ThermoFisherlogo[1]Sumitomo_SM-l[1]Unilever

 

Vegan and Vegetarian Health Products - Herbalift

The Origins Of Welsh Rarebit

Welsh Artisan Celebration Cheese Cakes

Take a trip to any café or restaurant for lunch and it’s likely you will come across Welsh Rarebit. This is the universally recognised toasted cheese dish which has probably no relation to eating furry creatures caught in the cabbage patch. It seems to belong to earlier times such as the 60’s when staples only were available and provided a healthy vegetarian dish full of carbohydrate and protein.

Welsh Rarebit is roughly defined as a piece of toasted bread with melted cheese smothered and dribbled over it. What makes it so special is the mustard and other spices, and beer which also forms part of the unctuous savoury sauce. It needs to be served with pickles, small amounts of vegetables, apple slices or some other condiment such as chilli, paprika or cayenne pepper. The latter is a modern affectation which peps up the dish immeasurably.

We might consider it to be more accurately called Welsh Rabbit although both names have been in use since the mid-eighteenth century but there is little to establish its true origin. The Oxford English Dictionary records Welsh Rarebit or Rabbit back to 1725 but 60 years before, it was called rarebit.

It may be that the English looked down upon the Welsh which is not surprising given the warlike history between the two nations from the Norman Conquest to Edward I’s placing of a number of castles around the coast to keep Wales under control. The reference to Rabbit hints at English condescension because the Welsh were unable to afford such meat and the landlords banned the catching of rabbits. Rabbit was also a favoured food of the Normans and although a number would have escaped over the centuries, they were confined to managed warrens.   It might just be a culinary play on words mind you. The other feature is the use of the word Welsh which was meant by the English to be ‘foreign’.

In the Rhondda Valley and around Ebbw Vale, Welsh Rarebit was a very common dish which provided plenty of protein because cheese, egg and milk were all used. Onion, chive but not garlic were added, beaten into the sauce mix.

The ‘rarebit’ part became common currency in about 1860 but didn’t enter parlance until 1910. To give a measure of the confusion, the lexicographer H.W. Fowler emphatically believed that “Welsh Rabbit is amusing and right. Welsh Rarebit is stupid and wrong” in his 1926 edition “A Dictionary of Modern English Usage”.

It also appears goof enough to be referenced in novels such as Kevin Sampson’s ‘Awaydays’ from 2012:-

“I honestly haven’t really thought about him, except on Tuesday afternoon, sitting in Beatties’ café eating their fine Welsh rarebit, I started dwelling once again on all the hints he’s been dropping.”

The recipe is mainly the following:-

The Sauce

8 oz. grated, strong Cheddar or Caerphilly cheese

1 tbsp butter

2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1tsp mustard

2 tsp plain flour

4 tbsp beer or milk

Freshly ground pepper (black preferred to white)

Method Of Preparation:

All the dry ingredients save the pepper are mixed together in a saucepan which is then heated. The cheese melts to form the sauce to which is added the milk and beer with continuous stirring. The pan must not be allowed to get too hot or the sauce burns. Additions of liquid need to be carefully monitored so the sauce does not become runny but a paste should be created with regular stirring. Simply add flour and cheese to recover any sauce that is too runny.

Grill a slice of bread on one side only ! Turn the slices over and spread the cheese mixture on the untoasted side. Sprinkle with pepper or chilli and place under a medium grill until the sauce begins to bubble. The lowest heat feasible is advised so the sauce doesn’t burn and evenly coats the toast.

In some instances the hot cheese sauce is served in a chafing dish to be spooned over the toast or for the pieces to be dipped in the sauce ‘a la fondue’.

The Tudor Kitchen written by Terry Breverton in 2015 describes a method of making national variants of the dish known as ‘Irish, Scotch, Welsh Rabbit and English Rabbit’ which had been described by the chef Hannah Glasse in her cookbook of 1747 ‘The Art Of Cookery’.

“To make a Scotch rabbit, toast the bread very nicely on both sides, butter it, cut a slice of cheese about as big as the bread, toast it on both sides, and lay it on the bread.

To make a Welch rabbit, toast the bread on both sides, then toast the cheese on one side, lay it on the toast, and with a hot iron brown the other side. You may rub it over with mustard.

To make an English rabbit, toast the bread brown on both sides, lay it in a plate before the fire, pour a glass of red wine over it, and let it soak the wine up. Then cut some cheese very thin and lay it very thick over the bread, put it in a tin oven before the fire, and it will be toasted and browned presently. Serve it away hot.

Or do it thus. Toast the bread and soak it in the wine, set it before the fire, rub butter over the bottom of a plate, lay the cheese on, pour in two or three spoonfuls of white wine, cover it with another plate, set it over a chafing-dish of hot coals for two or three minutes, then stir it till it is done and well mixed. You may stir in a little mustard; when it is enough lay it on the bread, just brown it with a hot shovel.”

Glasse, Hannah. (ca. 1747) The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy, …by a Lady (Posthumous edition, L. Wangford, London, c. 1770), p. 146

Sampson, Kevin. (2012) Awaydays. Random House ISBN 1448137608 p. 153

Why We Must get To Know The Saskatoon.

It sounds like we’ve just entered Saskatchewan in Canada when we talk of Saskatoon but it’s the berry we are keen on, not the region. I know it looks like a blueberry and frankly if you were offered one then you would say a saskatoon was a poor substitute when it comes to taste but don’t dismiss it – its flavour works well with other fruits.

Saskatoon berries on a tree. Copyright: vebman / 123RF Stock Photo

Saskatoon berries on a tree. Copyright: vebman / 123RF Stock Photo

Saskatoons are probably the new superfood and should be treated as such. The one big difference between them and blueberries is they don’t need acidic soils for good growth. Given the limey soils of the Forest of Dean, blueberries can only really be grown in large pots otherwise the Saskatoon sounds like a good bet for more open growth in the leafy garden where it grows amongst open heathland.

The fruit comes from the Amelanchier alnifolia but its more common names include alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, the Western Juneberry and the Pacific Serviceberry. It used to be called Pigeon Berry but that has fallen largely out of fashion.

The plant is found throughout much of the USA and Canada where it grows at high elevations in places like the Rockies. It grows up to 8 metres and is deciduous. The flowers are white and beckon us over to inspect them more closely. The fruit looks like a large blueberry or a small bullace or damson fruit and is almost as purple in colour.

Soil conditions: prepare the soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted manure or compost. The rootball on planting needs to be thoroughly moist, so stand it in a bucket of water for 30 mins. beforehand and then plant. The plants need to be set slightly deeper in the soil than they would be if still in the pot. Gently firm the roots with the heel of the show. Staking isn’t required unless a howling gale rips through the garden. They are reliable to grow and need a good feed each Spring for the crop to come.

I would grow it as a bush, pruned to form a good shape and make it easy to pick the fruit. In fact, when the bush is first planted, leave it to grow simply to put on as much growth as possible. It’s ripening season is from June to August as we move inland. The best flavour comes just before the fruit becomes overripe and without bruising it.

The main nutritious qualities are richness in polyphenols such as anthocyanins, some minerals including calcium, magnesium and manganese so it could rival birch sap for that latter property.

We have used them in jams and as a fruit sauce but I prefer it in combination with strawberries and raspberries. The taste is slightly bitter due to the polyphenols but that hints at its goodness. Some say it tastes like a cherry with hint of almond and actually works well in granola when the fruit is dried. Use in pies and salad dressings for something slightly different.

The bush is not readily available but we hear that Frank P Matthews will offer some cultivars in the near future from their garden centres. The cultivars are ‘Thiessen’ and ‘Martin’ which ripen first, followed by Smokey, Northline and JB30. Incidentally the leaves look fiery red in the Autumn so it keeps it’s powerful colouring long after the fruit has been eaten.

Problem Pests Of Food Crops: The Allium Leaf Miner

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

One of the most common pests in the garden which can ruin a great crop is the Allium Leaf Miner. The main crops affected are onions, shallots, garlic and leek. The disease was first detected in Britain in 2002 where it is prevalent in the South-East and central England.

The larvae bore into the bulbs and stems of mainly Allium types where their effect is devastating. The organism causing all the problems is Phytomyza gymnostoma. It tends produce a certain amount of damage to the leaves before secondary fungal and bacterial attacks cause rotting.

The main symptoms are caused by the adult fly which creates the infestation. The flies are small, about 3 mm long and grey-brown and the most visible symptom. The female fly feeds by making punctures in the leaves to suck up the sap before laying its eggs. The attack is noticeable by the appearance of distinctive lines of white dots in the foliage.

Maggots are then produced which cause most of the damage. These larvae are small, white/cream and headless without legs. They chomp the leaves and stems leaving holes. There is considerable rotting which then forms brown patches where the tissues are damaged. Tunnels are also left generally containing the larvae.

Treatment

The best way to protect any crop likely to be affected by the miner is to cover the crop with fleece or a fine-grade netting. Crop rotation will also help to reduce the impact of the bugs. It ensures any pests and diseases from the same family of edibles cannot take hold on any particular piece of ground.

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

Biology

Allium leaf miner has two generations a year:

  • First generation female flies lay eggs on the stems or base of leaves during March to April
  • The second generation repeats the process in October to November, this generation is usually the most damaging

The maggots bore into the foliage, stems or bulbs of their host plants and, after a couple of weeks, are fully fed and ready to turn into brown pupae. Pupation takes place mainly within the stems and bulbs during summer and winter but some pupae may end up in the soil, especially where plants have rotted off.

Growing Celery

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

Celery is a classic of the salad bowl and absolutely essential for scooping out dips. It is however not that straightforward to grow without some care. However, careful preparation and concern for its growing conditions should ensure an excellent crop.

Celery seed is quite fine and needs to be sown indoors from March to early May at about 0.5cm deep. A tray of good quality compost should suffice. The tray is watered by misting with a spray bottle, allowed to drain and then placed in the greenhouse in a light and warm position. The temperature should be between 15 and 20 °C.

The compost needs to be kept moist but not saturated and the seedlings usually appear in 14 to 21 days.

The young crops are transplanted to individual cells in trays or larger trays, about 5 cm apart and grown on to a point where they are large enough to be handled. As in all handling of young seedlings, grab the plant by the leaf and not the stem as this causes extreme damage otherwise.

The celery is grown on in cooler conditions but not cold. The young plants are hardened off by exposing to cold before planting out in May or June, allowing about 25cm between crops and 45cm between rows. The soil must be watered regularly.

Most celery is grown in a trench which means it can be earthed up to produce whiter or redder stems are required. The trench needs to be 15cm wide and 10cm deep. The soil is retained from the trench so it can be earthed up as the stems grow.

Earthing starts when the plants are about 30cm high which is usually around August time. Before earthing, some string is tied around the leaves and just above the stem but below the leaves. This process is repeated as the crop grows so that the stems remain tight together. The crop is harvested between September and December.

 

Grow your own plants with our quality flower and vegetable seeds. Buy online from SimplySeed.co.uk

Growing Broccoli

Groves Nurseries and Garden Centre

One of the finest types of broccoli to grow is ‘Early Purple Sprouting’ although the fine green heads of other kinds are highly regarded.

Broccoli prepared for cooking. Copyright: yelenayemchuk / 123RF Stock Photo

Broccoli prepared for cooking. Copyright: yelenayemchuk / 123RF Stock Photo

It is usually sown outdoors from March to late May, very thinly in a seed bed dedicated to the crop alone. The seedlings must be allowed to grow on until they are large enough to be planted in their cropping positions, usually elsewhere in the garden.

Sowing Seed

Seed needs to be sown thinly, about 1.5cm deep into a soil which has been tilled to a fine, crumbly texture. This will have been watered previously and once the seeds are sown covered over. Most seedlings appear between 2 and 3 weeks.

The ground needs to be kept well watered if the ground dries up. A watering can with a fine rose is ideal until the plants are fully established in the ground.

Seedlings are transplanted when they are above 10cm tall. They must be carefully handled using just the leaf and not the stem which could damage the young seedling. The seedlings are laced 60cm apart in all directions, firmed and watered in well.

The other technique is to sow indoors into compost or John Innes No. 1 compost about 0.5cm deep. This is watered beforehand and placed in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. The soil is kept moist and theseedlings transplanted to other trays at 5cm apart. Once they have sprouted, the seedlings should be large enough to handle. The young crops are accustomed to the outdoors before planting out in July or August.

The shoots of sprouting broccoli are cut when 15 cm long from February to May.

Burukutu

Burukutu is a rather popular alcoholic beverage with a prominent vinegar-like flavour that is prepared from millet and sorghum or Guine corn grains (Kolawole et al., 2007). It is produced throughout northern Africa. It is widely consumed as food because it is thick, paste-like and heavy in the rural areas of northern Nigeria, Ghana and Ethiopia, and in poor urban neighbourhoods because it is more affordable than commercially brewed beer.

The basic manufacturing process is:-

  • Malting the grains of millet and sorghum to produce the sweet sugars needed for the fermentation and flavour development.
  • Steeping which require soaking of the malted grains in water for at least three hours.
  • Drying where the grains soak up enough water that they sprout. The grains are usually spread on a malting floor and turned for over 5 days to encourage even sprouting.
  • Mashing – the grain is milled and mixed with water to form a ‘liquor’ which is slowly heated. The mashing process as in general brewing sees the enzymes digest the starch and convert the sugars which are mainly maltose into a type of beer wort.
  • Fermentation where yeast is added to convert sugars to alcohol and then a maturation period where the beverage is allowed to rest before bottling.

The percentage alcohol content of Burukutu is between 3-6% (Bennett et al., 1998). Burukutu has been reported to contain vitamins, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, calcium, 26.7 g starch, and 5.9 g of protein per liter (Egemba and Etuk, 2007).

Bennett, L.A., Campillo, C., Chandrashekar, C.R., Gureje, O. (1998) Alcoholic beverage consumption in India, Mexico and Nigeria. Alcohol Health Res. World. 22 pp. 243–252.

Egemba, K.C., Etuk, V.E. (2007) A kinetic study of burukutu fermentation. J. Eng. Appl. Sci. 2 pp. 1193–1198.

Kolawole, O.M., Kayode, R.M.O., Akinduyo, B. (2007) Proximate and microbial analyses of burukut and pito produced in Ilorin, Nigeria. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 6:  pp. 587–590.

The Process Of Cheese Manufacture

The making of cheese is one of the great delights coming from the dairy industry and let’s face it there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. There are amongst the many interesting types, certain varieties from the Middle East and some famous examples from the USA called Monterrey Jack and Colby.

Ingredients

The main ingredient in all cheese is milk. Cheese is prepared from cow, goat, sheep, donkey, water buffalo or a blend of these milks which all impart many different flavours and textures characteristic of the final cheese. The protein in the milk needs to be coagulated or curdled. The type of coagulant employed depends on the type of cheese required. For acidic cheeses, an acid source such as acetic acid or vinegar or glucono delta-lactone which is a mild food acid is used. For rennet cheeses, calf rennet or, more commonly, a rennet produced through microbial bioprocessing is used. Calcium chloride is sometimes added to the cheese to improve the coagulation properties of the milk and help harden the cheese off.

Some cheeses have flavours added to them including various herbs like rosemary and sage, spices, fruit, chilli, hot and sweet peppers, horseradish, and port wine.

Manufacture Of Cheese

Milk is usually standardized so that subsequent manufacturing can be uniform, consistent and give good yields. Ensuring the cheese has the optimum protein to fat ratio is important which is also dependent on milk quality.

Milk Treatment

 The milk is often pasteurised or given a mild heat treatment to reduce the number of spoilage microorganisms and provide a suitable environment in which the added starter cultures can be allowed to grow and ferment. The process can have a profound effect on cheese flavour and in many situations, raw, unpasteurised cheese is used to generate important flavours. Raw milk cheese has to be aged for at least 60 days to reduce the possibility of exposure to disease causing microorganisms or pathogens such as Listeria that can be present.

The milk is then cooled following its heat treatment to 90°F (32°C) to bring it to a suitable temperature needed for the starter bacteria to grow. If raw milk is used then it must be heated to 90°F (32°C).

Inoculation with Starter & Non-Starter Bacteria and Ripening

The starter cultures and any non-starter adjunct bacteria are added to the milk and held at 90°F (32°C) for 30 minutes to ripen. The ripening step allows the bacteria to grow and begin fermentation, which lowers the pH making the milk more acidic and suitable for processing in the next step. It also develops the flavour of the cheese as various fats and sugars are metabolised.

Addition Of Rennet And Curd Formation

A type of enzyme, a protease in fact which hydrolyses proteins called rennet is added that acts on the milk proteins to form the curd. After the rennet is added, the curd is left for about 30 to 40 minutes so a firm precipitate or ‘coagulum’ forms.

Curd Handling & Heating

 The curd ferments and hardens until it reaches pH 6.4. The curd is then cut with cheese knives into small pieces and heated to 100°F (38°C). The heating step encourages separation of the whey from the curd. The whey is then drained off from the container, usually a vat in which the cheese is being made where the curd left behind forms a mat.

Curd Formation And The Process Of Cheddaring

 The curd mats are cut into sections and piled on top of each other and flipped periodically in a process called cheddaring. Cheddaring helps to expel more whey allowing the fermentation to continue until a pH of 5.1 to 5.5 is reached. The mats are permitted to “knit” together and form a tighter matted structure. These curd mats are then milled or cut into smaller pieces.

Brining Or Dry Salting Of The Curd

When a cheddar type cheese is manufactured, the small pieces of curd are placed in the vat and salted with dry salt where it is further mixed in. Mozzarella curd for example is cut into blocks or loaves which are salted in a brine solution.

Cheese Pressing And Storage

The salted curd pieces are placed into cheese hoops and then pressed into blocks to form the cheese. The freshly prepared cheese is stored in a cool place to age. Many cheeses are aged from a few months to many years. Parmesan cheese can be aged for up to 100 years before it is released to market. Some cheeses are wrapped in modern packaging but a traditional method of storing in a wax coating is also possible, keeping the cheese as moist as possible.

—————————————————————————————————— ——————–Welsh Artisan Celebration Cheese Cakes

Glamorgan Sausage

The peculiarity of this sausage is that it is in fact a meatless and skinless sausage from Wales which might make it a pale imitation of a truly meaty version.  When I’ve eaten it in cafes, I have it served with mash and baked beans in London and I’m never disappointed.  It is also known as the Glamorgan Cheese Sausage because the main ingredient is cheese which is usually Cheddar or Caerphilly. This is often used in that other great welsh snack of Welsh Rarebit. Incidentally, the meatless nature of the sausage echoes the vegetarian status of that dish just referenced. The sausage also contains breadcrumbs, leeks or spring onions depending the level of flavour required, parsley, thyme, rosemary, various seasonings which can include mustard and all bound with egg. They are shaped into cylinders and always fried. it was probably developed following rationing after the war. 

Jane Grigson wrote in the Observer Guide to British Cooking (1984) of a quote by George Borrow from his tome ‘Wild Wales; Its People, Language And Scenery’ published in 1862:-

“ The breakfast was delicious, consisting of excellent tea, buttered toast, and Glamorgan sausages, which I really think are not a whit inferior to those of Epping’.

The reference to Epping sausages refers to another skinless type but with meat.

 

The Origins Of Bara Brith

Bara Brith is a common enough tea-time treat but its origins begin with Wales where it was prepared as part of the weekly bake but just before the week-end. It is known in the Welsh language as ‘speckled bread’ where it can either be a leavened or unleavened bread enriched with dried fruit and flavoured with tea and mixed spices. It is always served sliced with a spread of butter. It is considered to be similar to Lincolnshire Plum Cake and other English spiced breads.

The dried fruit is often soaked in a tea mixture to plump up the fruit. The spice is often just mace, nutmeg and in some cases saffron although that is rare. Originally, yeast was used before the advent of baking soda. The basic recipe is given below:-

Ingredients

  • 450g/1lb dried mixed fruit
  • 250g/9oz brown sugar
  • 300ml/½ pint warm black tea
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 450g/1lb self-raising flour
  • 1 free-range egg beaten

 

Method

The fruit and sugar are soaked in strained tea and left overnight. On the next day, preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment. Mix the remaining ingredients into the fruit mixture, knead well with a folding action. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake the oven and bake for 1½ hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Clayton, Bernard; Cameron, Donnie. (1987) Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book Of Breads. pp. 325-326 

Hensperger, Beth; Williams, Chuck. (2002) Williams-Sonomoa Collection: Bread. ‘Welsh Bara Brith’ p. 84

 

Welsh Artisan Celebration Cheese Cakes

The Value Of Radio Frequency Identification In Supply Chain Management

The year 1948 may not seem to ring many bells in our minds but it was the time for the formal introduction of a technology called radio frequency identification (RFID). It has impacted the consumer goods industry especially given that probably all retail and manufacturing transactions in the modern world rely on it. It is especially important in goods tracking and is a lynchpin in best practice as it provides consumer confidence in knowing the distribution and care given to a product as it passes through the retail system. That process which consumers generally do not see but is operated by retailers and manufacturers is supply chain management. It is now the main competitor to the barcoding system as a technology.

The Basic Technology

The four main features of an RFID system are a tag, the antenna, a reader of the tag, and a database to collect vital information. RFID tags are electronic devices that receive, store, and transmit data such as manufacturer codes, serial numbers, their country of origin, formulations and recipes, nutritional data, shelf-life and expiration dates, and a number of other features too numerous to mention. The RFID reader relies on a radio frequency transmitter and receiver linked to a control unit, and a memory device to obtain access to stored information for authentication. The antennae attached to both readers and tags enables the wireless exchange of information between these two parts.

Taking a more detailed look:-

The tag is a device composed of an electronic circuit with an integrated antenna, a portable memory using radio frequency to transfer data between the tag, the antenna and then the receiver. This type of device can be read-only or read-write.  Two types are classified: the  active sort because it has a battery and transmits its data, or a passive one which is activated by an external signal.  At the moment, all the electronic componentry and circuitry is located on a silicon microchip but this may change as new technologies are introduced. The cost of the tag depends mainly on the surface area of the silicon chip and the antenna metal. The tags are not cheap costing about 6–10¢ each, making them cost-prohibitive for most primary food packages. They tend to be used on larger packaging such as palettes and high value goods.

The antenna which is connected to the chip is a critical link in the chain. It receives and transmits electromagnetic waves, resulting in wireless data transfer. The antenna is usually constructed by etching a thin film of copper or aluminum which is deposited on the surface of the substrate that underlies the tag. The chip and antenna are mounted on a substrate made of paper or plastic that is rigidly fixed to the packaging.

The external reader in the store, warehouse, and administrative site communicates with the tag via the antenna. It converts and  interprets radio waves into digital information and receives commands from the application software. Additionally, the reader may send its power to passive tags as part of the activating process.

The data handling computer can read and write information  both from and to the tags through the reader. It stores and evaluates the obtained data and links the transceiver to application software. In current circles it is perhaps the most costly item and requires a high capital investment, since it must be installed at every site. Cheaper versions read transmissions from powered or active tags. Thinking ahead, it might be feasible for miniature readers on every store shelf and home shelf to even more closely track packages. Data from the readers including the location, identification, status, amongst other features may be instantly operated upon as part of a marketing tool to check for a consumer’s interest and reaction to a product.

Advantages Over Barcoding

RFID has several advantages over the barcoding system. RFID has a higher data holding capacity and the ability to read several tags almost simultaneously. In ideal conditions, RFID does not require line of sight but in reality the conditions for RFID are difficult because of high levels of electronic interference, the reading range may be limited, as is its readability and depth of penetration.

Impact On Product Shelf-Life

The product shelf-life is an important consumer factor in purchasing and enjoyment of a product following its storage and then consumption. RFID is able to provide data especially when a product fails to live up to expectations or when more serious situations arise such as product recalls. There is an emerging technology linking RFID with oxygen and humidity sensors, biosensors and other techniques which can monitor quality changes or microbial spoilage within a product. Examples also exist where medical foods have been suggested for patients with illness that need suitable nutrition. RFID preserves consumer satisfaction and confidence by protecting against counterfeit products by assuring product origin.

Review Articles

There are a series of excellent review articles on the subject which are worth consulting as they provide much more detailed insights into the current status of the technology and its vast potential. The most notable are those by Kumar et al., (2009) which gives a very strong overview of the industry. Many of the applications it cites have been superseded but its worth looking at the citations to get a measure of how valuable the technology has become. A slightly older review (Brody et al., 2008) puts RFID into context with other intelligent food packaging technologies.

Brody, A. L., Bugusu, B., Han, J. H., Sand, C. K. and McHugh, T. H. (2008), Scientific Status Summary. Journal of Food Science, 73: R107–R116. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2008.00933.x

Kumar, P., Reinitz, H.W., Simunovic, J., Sandeep, K.P. and Franzon, P.D. (2009), Overview of RFID Technology and Its Applications in the Food Industry. J. Food Sci., 74: R101–R106. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2009.01323.x