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

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  • JoiquimCouteau

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

    • SF2K01

      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

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

        • KxBk6U

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

          • JoiquimCouteau

            Then why not just keep the tags on the packaging? 

          • DuhYup

            FTW

          • KxBk6U

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

        • SF2K01

          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.

  • Anonymous

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

  • Grooveboss

    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?

  • Grooveboss

    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?

  • GoodDoktorBad

    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.

  • Anonymous

    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.

  • Simiantongue

    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.   ‘>.<'

    • Grooveboss

      fish and chips 

    • SF2K01

      The crunch berries were the only part I wanted anyhow.

  • Simiantongue

    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.   ‘>.<'

  • Grooveboss

    fish and chips 

  • Anonymous

    The crunch berries were the only part I wanted anyhow.

  • Anonymous

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Mike Miseph

    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.

  • Anonymous

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

  • KxBk6U

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

  • Anonymous

    Then why not just keep the tags on the packaging? 

  • Guest

    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..

  • Guest

    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..

  • Anonymous

    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.

  • DuhYup

    FTW

  • KxBk6U

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

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