Is Your Food Going High-Tech? SmartLabel QR Codes to Provide Data on GMOs and Allergens

Is Your Food Going High-Tech? SmartLabel QR Codes to Provide Data on GMOs and Allergens

About 30 food companies announced Wednesday they would be adding scannable SmartLabel QR codes to the packaging of nearly 30,000 products. These codes will include more information about the food in question, such as ingredients, allergens, detailed nutritional information, certifications, and GMO ingredients.

The announcement of the development of these codes follows closely in the wake of the FDA’s approval of GMO salmon for sale in the U.S. and subsequent refusal by the FDA to enforce mandatory labeling of GMOs. More transparency when it comes to food products — particularly GMOs — has been demanded by groups such as Just Label It, who have even claimed that transparency is the new marketing, as consumers become more aware and interested in what is going into their food.

Information on GMO ingredients as well as fair trade and animal welfare certifications, when available, will be found in the “Other information” tab of the app.

Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It, told Fortune that he did not believe that this action was sufficient in increasing transparency. “There’s no wording to tell you to scan this for GMO information, and the information will not be easily available to consumers without a smartphone,” he said.

But Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, an industry group also advocating for transparency, disagreed with Faber, saying that this move is a great way to include lots of information without taking up space on packaging. “There are people just as passionate about workers’ rights, animal care, environmental impact,” he said. “There isn’t enough real estate on any label to address every concern a consumer might have.”

The codes are part of an initiative by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and are expected to appear in stores by the end of 2017. Companies that have agreed to include the QR codes in their packaging include PepsiCo, Hormel, Campbell Soup, Land O’Lakes, Coca-Cola, and Hershey.

Pamela G. Bailey, chief executive of the GMA, told the New York Times, “It will enable consumers to get easy and instantaneous access to detailed product information by scanning a bar code or doing an online search to reach the SmartLabel landing page.”

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Scanning QR code image via Shutterstock

Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.