Barcodes Help Provide The Complete History of Aomori Apples

Posted December 20, 2013

AJ201312180038MThe Aomori prefectural government and local apple farmers plan to introduce a barcode system that will allow customers to check the history of each apple they buy. The move was prompted by growing calls for safer food, particularly in foreign countries.

Aomori Prefecture, a prime apple growing area in northern Japan, is seeking to expand the export of its apples to foreign markets. The new system will use the very common QR Code, a two-dimensional barcode. QR codes can be read by mobile phones, giving the customer information on where the apple came from and how it was cared for, such as how often pesticides were used, and even providing a photo and message from the farmer who grew the fruit. The data will be available in Japanese, Chinese and English.

The prefectural government’s project will start on a trial basis, possibly during the harvest season next autumn. Designated farmers will attach QR code stickers on apples bound for Taiwan, the main export destination for Japanese apples. Each barcode will be unique to each apple, even if they are harvested from the same tree, according to prefectural government officials. It is rare to assign individual food items their own codes, the officials said.

The new indication system is also intended to allow the prefectural government and apple growers to follow the distribution routes of the exported apples. Only 15,000 tons of apples produced in 2012, a fraction of the 710,000 tons shipped, were exported. More than 90 percent of the exported Japanese apples came from Aomori Prefecture, according to estimates from officials there.

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