Laser Etching Coming Soon to Produce

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Photo Courtesy Sunkist
New laser technology may eliminate the waste of sticker labels used on produce.

A greener alternative to adhesive sticker labels on fruits and vegetables may soon arrive in the U.S. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of approving laser etching technology for produce.

A low-energy carbon dioxide laser beam would cut the information (that identifies the produce at the checkout line) into the outer cells of the peel, eliminating the need for paper stickers. The etching can’t be removed, making it easier to trace the fruit or vegetable back to its source. New Zealand, Australia and others already use the technology and it has been approved in Asia, South Africa, Central and South America, Canada and the European Union.

A USDA Agriculture Research Service study of tangerines and grapefruit found that the laser technology does not enhance decay or water loss. The etching is also too minimal to provide an entry point for food pathogens in the fruit, making it a safe alternative to sticker labels. Testing is also now being done on tomatoes, avocados and other citrus fruits.

The laser labeling won’t change the taste of the produce because the etching just goes on the peel.

More on fruits and vegetables

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• Don’t be afraid to eat your veggies with this tasty recipe for Vegetable Gratin by Chef Gordon Hamersley.