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Faster grain tracing system may be on the horizon

By Jane Byrne , 05-Oct-2010
Last updated on 05-Oct-2010 at 15:00 GMT

Recently undertaken research has devised a method for developing a global tracing system to rapidly identify the origin of grain in a bulk shipment, enabling trace-back all the way to individual farm fields and adherence to US and EU traceability regulations.

The USDA scientists involved in the project said the sugar and starch based tracers developed have great potential for application in the grain tracing system.

Tracing grain from the farm to its final processing destination as it moves through multiple grain-handling systems, storage bins, and bulk carriers presents numerous challenges to existing record-keeping systems, argue the scientists.

And the researchers explained that one of the key elements in their project, the findings of which were published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, is the development of a tracer that carries the identity of the grain.

They said that the surface texture of the tracers allow for the marking of identification codes that can be then identified by electronic devices.

“Using information recorded on a coded caplet and accompanying database, system participants and users can identify grain origin, movement, and quality traits even after grains are commingled and shipped to multiple distributors,” said the authors.

And they explained that the processed sugar, pregelatinized starch, and silicified microcrystalline cellulose (SMCC) based tracers they developed are food-grade and no protein is included in their ingredients. Furthermore, they will not contaminate the grain and will not introduce food allergens.

According to their findings, the hardness of the tracers is adequate to resist breakage during mechanical delivery into the grain, as it is transferred from the combine to a truck, and as it flows along with the grain.

They scientists determined that an aqueous coating system containing appropriate plasticizers showed uniform coverage and clear coating, and that this appeared to act as a barrier against moisture penetration, to protect against damage of the surface of the tracers, and to improve their mechanical strength.

Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry
Published online ahead of print
Title: Development and Characterization of Food-Grade Tracers for the Global Grain Tracing and Recall System
Authors: T J Herrman et al

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