Monday, July 18, 2005

fruit alert

In fruit news, tattooed fruit is replacing stickered fruit. The new technology will solve several problems encountered by people in Texas.

Sticker-removal duty took Jean Lemeaux of Clarksville, Tex., half an hour one day last week.

"I was picking all the little stickers from the Piggly Wiggly off my plums and my avocado pears and my peaches," said Ms. Lemeaux, 76. "Then I had to make fruit salad out of the ones that got hurt when I took the stickers off, and then I had to wash the glue off the other ones before I put them in the fruit bowl."

"One time," she said, "I got up the next morning and looked in the mirror and there were two of them up in my hair."

We should be grateful for no longer living the sticker-up-in-my-hair terror Ms. Lemeaux's case tragically exemplifies. But are the tattoos, or "stickerless technology," the answer? Will they make us more secure from stickers? And might they help us remember the rest of our grocery list?

The stickerless technology has a broader purpose, too: it is part of the produce industry's latest effort to identify and track, whether for profit or for security, everything Americans eat. Since 9/11, the industry has been encouraged to develop "track and trace" technology to allow protection of the food supply at various stages of distribution. In addition, next year federal regulations will require all imported produce to be labeled with the country of origin....

No one knows exactly when every piece of fruit will be traceable, but the trend is clear: Wal-Mart is already requiring all pallets delivered to its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to be fitted with radio frequency identification tags, so that they can be tracked by a satellite....

"With the right scanning technology the produce could even be bar-coded with lots of information: where it comes from, who grew it, who picked it, even how many calories it has per serving," said Fred Durand III, president of Durand-Wayland. "You could have a green pepper that was completely covered with coding. Or you could sell advertising space."

One might cringe at the idea of a swoosh, McD logo, or Mr. Clean on the side of one's fruit. But growth in the fruit tattoo industry could provide jobs for graphic artists and boost the economy. The NY Times even suggests fine artists might -- however reluctantly -- join in the celebratory act:

Students of still-life painting might agree. "For literally hundreds of years, artists have immersed themselves in the color and curvature of the perfect peach or apple," said Joseph Rishel, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art who specializes in Cézanne. "So a tattoo sounds like a desecration."

"But then again," Mr. Rishel said, "there are those who say that Cézanne himself used artificial fruit."

Mr. Durand then adds another nugget of clarity and distinctness to the issue:

Mother Nature isn't interested in making it easy for us to label her, I guess," Mr. Durand said. "If she was, all fruit would be red Delicious apples."

Helmut wonders whether the laser etchings might enable us to better understand whether he should place his fruit in a fruitbowl or a fishbowl.

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