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Could QR codes revolutionise transparency in food supply chains?

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Edible QR codes are being used in the restaurant industry to tell customers where their dish has come from. Will they take off?

 We've had a website made from bacon and a magazine advert featuring a QR (Quick Response) code made from lemons and avocados. Now edible QR codes are being used to fight fish fraud.

Over the past couple of years, the technology has been used by several sushi restaurants in the UK and America. In 2012, Moshi Moshi, founded by Caroline Bennett, was the first to trial QR sushi, partnering with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a seafood watch organisation. To celebrate its 10,000th MSC-certified dish, Moshi Moshi took up the challenge of telling its certified sustainable seafood story in a digital format.

"The beauty of working with MSC on QR sushi codes was that we had a credible partner reinforcing the message. Had it been a homemade video or webpage that we had [created ourselves], it would have had less impact" says Bennett.

The code was printed on rice paper and nori (edible seaweed), using squid ink. This was then placed on top of the fish. When a customer scanned it with a smartphone, they were directed to a website explaining where the fish was sourced. The technology is undoubtedly impressive, but the long-term impact on sustainability and consumer behaviour is questionable, as is whether other restaurants can adopt the technology successfully.

Stickers can be displayed on food packaging, highlighting that the meat within is 100% British, but this doesn't guarantee that it has been ethically sourced or that the supply chain is sustainable. "I am a truly cynical consumer; just because supermarkets put photos of their farmers on meat packages, doesn't reassure me of the husbandry of the animal one jot," says Bennett.

If fast food outlets and other multinational restaurants were to adopt the edible QR code idea, they could leave themselves open to unwelcome scrutiny. "A QR story needs to be linked to an independent judge of the value of its sustainability, otherwise [these] restaurants may be guilty of misleading consumers," continues Bennett. "If the stories behind the codes were known to be real rather than spin, perhaps more people will be encouraged to learn more about their food in this way."..Read more on theguardian.com

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 September 2013 07:25

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