Would You Eat Edible RFID Tags That Describe Your Food?

RFID food

Bulgarian soup. Photo: Biso (CC)

Jesse Emspak writes in New Scientist:

For tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are the greatest thing since sliced bread. But what if the RFID chip was actually in the sliced bread?

A student at the Royal College of Art in London, Hannes Harms, has come up with a design for an edible RFID chip, part of a system he calls NutriSmart. The chip could send information about the food you eat to a personal computer or, conceivably, a mobile phone via a Bluetooth connection.

The idea is that it could send nutritional data and ingredients for people who have allergies, or calorie-counting for those on diets, or maybe even telling your fridge when the food has gone off. It could even be used to market organic food, with a chip holding data about the origin of that tuna steak you just bought.

The idea still raises a lot of questions. First is safety …

Read More: New Scientist

35 Comments on "Would You Eat Edible RFID Tags That Describe Your Food?"

  1. Anonymous | Jun 18, 2011 at 10:07 pm |

    Have fun metabolizing those RFIDs. Or having them accumulate in your liver

  2. JoiquimCouteau | Jun 18, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    Have fun metabolizing those RFIDs. Or having them accumulate in your liver

    • Edible is not the same thing as digestible. It will pass through your system the same way gum does, i.e. without being absorbed by the body.

      • JoiquimCouteau | Jun 19, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

        Then what’s the point of putting them inside food if they last about a day?

        • I think the point is to get the info before you at the food, not after.

        • Didn’t you hear? Gum gets stuck in your intestines for 7 years, so we should be seeing 7 years worth of data!

          Seriously though, you’re right it wouldn’t stay in you longer than a day. I suspect that’s merely one end of the system though. He probably wants to inject you with some kind of reader that would monitor the RFID tags that pass through your stomach and doctors would potentially be able to use that reader for information. It’s a total pipe dream because there’s no way it could be done accurately or cheaply.

  3. Grooveboss | Jun 18, 2011 at 10:11 pm |

    sounds like a another way to get cancer. How about saving money on by skipping on the tags and feeding us better food we can describe to our friends later?

  4. Grooveboss | Jun 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm |

    sounds like a another way to get cancer. How about saving money on by skipping on the tags and feeding us better food we can describe to our friends later?

  5. Anonymous | Jun 19, 2011 at 12:19 am |

    RFID tags don’t “send” information. That would require a power source. They don’t transmit, but information can be “read” from them by some sort of RF scanning device similar to, but more sophisticated than the common scanners they have to prevent shoplifting at the local Target.

  6. GoodDoktorBad | Jun 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |

    RFID tags don’t “send” information. That would require a power source. They don’t transmit, but information can be “read” from them by some sort of RF scanning device similar to, but more sophisticated than the common scanners they have to prevent shoplifting at the local Target.

  7. Simiantongue | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:28 am |

    Is this going to go the same way as Captian Crunch and those crunch berries? For years every now and again they would advertise something like 30% more crunch berries in captain crunch. Until one day it got to the point that I was able to buy a box of nothing but crunch berries.

    So, am I going to get more and more RFID in my food until one day the answer to my question about what’s for dinner will be “RFID chips dear”. I just hope they are a good source of fiber.   ‘>.<'

  8. Simiantongue | Jun 19, 2011 at 12:28 am |

    Is this going to go the same way as Captian Crunch and those crunch berries? For years every now and again they would advertise something like 30% more crunch berries in captain crunch. Until one day it got to the point that I was able to buy a box of nothing but crunch berries.

    So, am I going to get more and more RFID in my food until one day the answer to my question about what’s for dinner will be “RFID chips dear”. I just hope they are a good source of fiber.   ‘>.<'

  9. Grooveboss | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:35 am |

    fish and chips 

  10. Anonymous | Jun 19, 2011 at 10:26 am |

    The crunch berries were the only part I wanted anyhow.

  11. Anonymous | Jun 19, 2011 at 10:38 am |

    Edible is not the same thing as digestible. It will pass through your system the same way gum does, i.e. without being absorbed by the body.

  12. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  13. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  14. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  15. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  16. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  17. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 4:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  18. Mike Miseph | Jun 19, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    That sounds like an awful lot of work and expense compared to putting such a tag in the packaging to be scanned prior to (or during, or after) consumption. Obviously, any food that is laced with RFID chips is going to be sufficiently processed that it will need to come in a package.

    I suppose it would be clever to use the number of chips ingested as a way to make reasonable estimates about the quantity of each ingredient actually consumed, but honestly, that just doesn’t seem worthwhile for most people. Perhaps individuals with very serious food allergies or dietary concerns would benefit from such detailed accounting of their intake, but most of us should be fine doing it the old-fashioned way.

    Anyway, I agree that a better idea would be to dramatically increase the amount of organic and/or local foods available to us and to make such foods cheaper. The most straightforward way to do this would be tax and regulatory reform that lessens the incentive for farmers to use vast amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides by not fully reimbursing such purchases, lowering the barrier to entry for organic farms by removing the most odious legal barriers to selling such produce (organic certification is expensive, and so is proving your food isn’t poisoned when you’ve failed to dump several tons of poison on it), and generally moving our agricultural policies closer to how they were before the 1950s.

  19. Anonymous | Jun 19, 2011 at 10:34 pm |

    Then what’s the point of putting them inside food if they last about a day?

  20. I think the point is to get the info before you at the food, not after.

  21. Anonymous | Jun 20, 2011 at 7:23 am |

    Then why not just keep the tags on the packaging? 

  22. I would hope that if anybody were counting calories or allergic to any sort of food, they read the fucking label before consuming it.  How fat, lazy, and ignorant do you have to be to need a computer to do it for you?  This is clearly not what this was invented for.. this dude is a puppet..

  23. I would hope that if anybody were counting calories or allergic to any sort of food, they read the fucking label before consuming it.  How fat, lazy, and ignorant do you have to be to need a computer to do it for you?  This is clearly not what this was invented for.. this dude is a puppet..

  24. Anonymous | Jun 20, 2011 at 10:48 am |

    Didn’t you hear? Gum gets stuck in your intestines for 7 years, so we should be seeing 7 years worth of data!

    Seriously though, you’re right it wouldn’t stay in you longer than a day. I suspect that’s merely one end of the system though. He probably wants to inject you with some kind of reader that would monitor the RFID tags that pass through your stomach and doctors would potentially be able to use that reader for information. It’s a total pipe dream because there’s no way it could be done accurately or cheaply.

  25. FTW

  26. Good point. Better, yet, why not just print the info on the package?

Comments are closed.