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Smart solutions for food on the net

CSIRO : 16 October, 2000  (Technical Article)
Scientists are developing both electronic and chemical devices to warn consumers if food quality was put at risk by high temperatures. 'New generation technology is helping to meet the challenges of delivering safe food bought over the internet,' says Mr Michael Rooney, Food Science Australia.
He says that electronic chips could offer an audible warning while sensitive strips changed colour if perishable foods were exposed to excessive heat.

Mr Rooney, a packaging materials specialist, told a CSIRO food industry forum in Brisbane that intelligent packaging that will alert consumers to food spoilage is a response to the ecommerce revolution.

'Food ordered directly over the internet will move outside the established cold supply chain,' he says.

'Smart packaging has a role to play so consumers know their food is fresh. It will give them confidence when they purchase on-line.'

'Electronic packing technology could also be valuable for food exporters wanting to ensure the integrity of their product for overseas customers.'

'It will be possible for manufacturers to monitor the temperature of produce on its way to overseas markets remotely via satellite,' Mr Rooney says.

Dr Lynne Cobiac, CSIRO Health Sciences and Nutrition told the forum that internet grocery trading should increase as more households gained access to the internet.

Dr Cobiac says the typical Australian net shopper was a 30 year old male, but women who did most of the grocery shopping were catching up.

'Overseas experience suggested a rapid up-take in on-line food purchases. Internet grocery purchases in the US were expected to reach $8.8 billion by 2004 while in Europe the market was growing at 200 percent with almost 550 e-grocers trading,' she says.

'Internet buying offers an opportunity to educate the consumer as factual information could be presented with greater impact on-line'.

'There is also opportunity with a flexible trading system to introduce new products or supply niche markets such as organic products.'

She says fear of credit card fraud and invasion of privacy are still inhibiting on-line trading.

The Brisbane E-commerce and Food Forum is the first in a series being held by CSIRO for companies which are part of the food supply chain.
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