Product Recalls Pushing RFID

The RFID field has gained visibility due to mandates from Wal-Mart and the Dept. of Defense, but observers note that there are many other factors pushing manufacturers to move from bar codes to RFID tags. A growing number of food-safety groups are demanding tracing technologies, as are the automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

Concerns over disease outbreaks and bio-terrorism have prompted agencies around the globe to call for techniques to trace and recall tainted foods. Australia, the European Union, Canada, and Japan have passed traceability requirements for beef, and the FDA is requiring pharmaceutical companies to improve tracking, partly to reduce the growing problem of counterfeit drugs.

In the auto industry, the Transportation Recall Enhancement Accountability and Documentation Act (TREAD), passed in response to the Ford-Firestone rollover problems of a few years back, is heightening interest in this new technology. "The rapid distribution of food makes it important to have tracking mechanisms, and the TREAD Act has rapid response requirements that require companies to aggregate data quickly to provide information when there are death or serious injury accidents," says John Blanchard, food and pharmaceutical research director at ARC Advisory Group of Dedham, MA.

A driving factor is the need to determine quickly whether products should be recalled, then rapidly identify recalled products and remove them from the field. Many observers note that these legislative requirements mirror efforts by Wal-Mart and the DoD, which require vendors to begin using RFID tags on all shipments. While the legislative groups arent generally identifying RFID, it is seen as a viable alternative in most applications.

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