Veggies Get Eco-Friendly ‘Tattoos’ in Sweden

Photo: James Brook, Associated PressIn Sweden, even the produce has tattoos. At least, that’s the case at one supermarket that is trying out a new way of labeling vegetables.

The ICA Kvantum supermarket in Malmo, Sweden, is marking avocadoes and sweet potatoes with a laser. The process removes the outer layer of pigment from the vegetables by using low-energy carbon dioxide lasers. The tattoo-like marks bear the vegetable’s country of origin and code number.

The store is one of ICA’s 1,350 locations across Sweden. If this test run is successful, the store hopes to use the technique to cut down further on excess sticker labeling and packaging.

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“It’s a new technique, and we are searching for a smarter way of branding our products due to the fact that we think we have too much unnecessary plastic material or packaging material on our products,” said Peter Hagg, the chain’s senior manager for fruits and vegetables.

Avocadoes and sweet potatoes were selected for the initial test run because stickers often fall off them and their peels are not normally eaten. However, despite the initial cautious selection, the laser technique has no significant impact on the produce itself.Photo: James Brook, Associated Press“It’s very delicate,” says Hagg. “Because the mark is not going through the skin in any way, it doesn’t affect the quality or taste of the product.”

The test may expand later this year to include melons and some produce with consumable skins to gauge consumer reaction.

However, the technique can’t be used on everything. Some produce, such as citrus fruit, can heal itself which means the mark would disappear. In other instances, packaging can extend a product’s shelf life.

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The laser labeling technique has been used in New Zealand and Australia since 2009 and was given the go-ahead in European Union countries in 2013 according to Eosta, the produce supplier that is working with ICA in Sweden.

The company says that it used about 135 miles of plastic wrap in 2015 to package more than 725,000 organic avocados sold to ICA. Thanks to laser labeling, the same produce is now available without any stickers or packaging.

Photo Credit: James Brook, Associated Press

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