Food sticker labels could soon be a thing of the past. Brands, dates, origins, and even images could soon be laser-printed directly onto pieces of produce.
Spanish company Laserfood has rolled out technology that marks produce with what it has dubbed "natural branding," a process of exposing produce to light that targets specific cells, forming a desired pattern on the skin without harming the inside of the fruit or vegetable or impacting its shelf life, PC Magazine explains. After that, the produce is washed with a contrast liquid that makes the pattern really pop.
Laser machines are sold directly to suppliers and retailers, who can control what's printed on the produce in-house. And while the machine may be a big up-front cost, the new label system could save chains money in the long run—savings that might one day be passed on to consumers. But that's not the only reason Laserfood wants people to buy into this new labeling technique.
Stickers slapped on everything from apples to avocados may be little, but replacing them with laser imprints could make a big difference for the environment, the company argues. According to The Guardian, the laser technology creates less than one percent of the carbon emissions created by a paper sticker of the same size. And that's to say nothing of the amount of paper, ink, and glue reduced by the system.
Several European chains have already launched the new labels on their produce and in their stores, including Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier Nature & More, Swedish supermarket ICA, and U.K grocer Marks & Spencer.
"By using natural branding on all the organic avocados we would sell in one year, we will save 200 kilometers—135 miles—of plastic," ICA business unit manager Peter Hagg told The Guardian. "It’s small, but I think it adds up."
It's unclear how soon (or if) U.S. markets will use the new, environmentally-friendly labels. But if in the future you see, say, a sweet potato with a label emblazoned on its skin, know that it's not the work of some produce section graffitti artist and it's completely safe to eat.
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