The EU is notoriously sensitive about how its crops are grown. However, this weekend, it will begin allowing companies to apply labels and barcodes directly onto produce using lasers.
The new legislation — which has taken three years to pass — was spearheaded by a Spanish company called Laser Food (natch), which has developed proprietary tech to print the marks en masse.
Similar to a laser cutter, Laser Food’s unwieldy contraptions are able to print marks onto the skin of produce, ranging from bananas to tomatoes, without damaging anything beneath it. The printing tech is specific enough to be read by a barcode scanner too. Interestingly, the EU’s original objection to the technology wasn’t actually the use of lasers — it was the use of two chemicals, iron oxides and hydroxides, which make the laser marks clearer to the eye. Right now, Laser Food's fastest machine can print up to 54,000 pieces of fruit in an hour, which isn't bad; the biggest hurdle will likely be convincing companies to invest in a fairly expensive new technology.
Fruit “tattoos”, of course, sound like a novelty, but they could eventually be useful. Not only will they do away with the distasteful act of picking off tiny fragments of sticker with your dirty fingernails, they will eliminate packaging, and, ultimately, make it easier for customers to know they’re not being deceived about the origin of their produce. Laser Food’s tech could also change the landscape of the supermarket: Now, fruits that accidentally evade laser-branding will be thrown in an “anonymous”, off-brand fruit bin.