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Smart supermarkets using high-tech labels

April 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Supermarkets are getting a whole lot smarter. Some are now using high-tech labels to help you make sure what you buy is safe.Concerned shopper Karen LaFlamme has two children, a husband and her father to feed, and she wants to be careful what crosses her table.

"I would feel terrible because, especially with my dad that's elderly, so I want to be sure that all the food my whole family eats is safe," she said.

She's excited about supermarkets making use of advanced technology to make sure what you buy is safe.

For example, bar codes on certain items prevent a sale that may be dangerous, by changing a color on the code if there has been an unsafe temperature change that can cause contamination.

"The top bar code becomes readable, so when you scan this at the checkout counter instead what it comes up with is error, bad product," said Brett Lucht, a researcher at the University of Rhode Island.

Other labels are being tested that will protect you after the sale, literally warning you of food contamination in your own refrigerator.

There are labels designed not to stop a sale, but to make one, with computerized messages promising free prizes.

Experts say the labels of the future will also emit an odor, encouraging you to buy.

"If you've got coffee, they'll send out the coffee aroma when they sense you're coming by," said Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx.

Other innovations include electronics that include reusable and programmable labels, which can change prices in seconds and more.


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