Last Wednesday the FSA (Food Standards Agency) published a survey saying only 2% of consumers look for GM information on labels. Despite the low number of people actually looking for GM information two-third of the British public agrees to say it is important to labelled products with genetically modified ingedients.

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The beginning of November was a rather interesting beginning for the supporters of genetically engineered food labels. Even if victory was not on their side, as the Californian ballot proposing the labelling of genetically modified ingredients in food products was rejected, the movement was still considered important. Why? Because of the increased awareness that GE food labels have started to receive lately.

The polls showed 47% voted in favour and 53% against. Monsanto and food companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle spent $45m on advertising and lobbying for the “no” campaign, while the “yes campaign” only spent around $8m, which was mainly funded by organic food companies.

The “yes” campaign has attracted several celebrity supporters, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and rap star Pharrell Williams who tweeted : “vote yes on Prop 37 if you believe you have the right to know what’s in your food.”

If until recently, the main concern has been the amount of saturated fats and sugars, the latest movement in food labelling shows how really concerned consumers are regarding the foods they intake. Targeted at people’s right to know which foods are genetically modified and which aren’t, the movement triggered the following reaction on behalf of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), “These efforts [to label] are not driven by evidence that GM foods are actually dangerous. Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

The reality is that almost 90% of US-grown corn and soybean is GM.

What Exactly Does Genetically Modified Food Mean?

Genetically modified food  have had specific changes introduced into their DNA by genetic engineering techniques. These techniques are much more precise  than mutagenesis (mutation breeding) where an organism is exposed to radiation or chemicals to create a non-specific but stable change.

genetically modified

A popular fruit that has been genetically modified is Papya. The reason? To resist the ringspot virus. The New York Times stated that “in the early 1990s, Hawaii’s papaya industry was facing disaster because of the deadly papaya ringspot virus. Without the introduction of the genetically modified breed, the state’s papaya industry would have collapsed. Today, 80% of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered, and there is still no conventional or organic method to control ringspot virus.

As expected, the technique has both strong supporters and strong opponents. And while the debates around safety and whether this is ethical or not seem to be endless, the labelling industry is getting ready for what seems to be the next natural step in informing the general public. Product labelling should be as accurate as possible.  Anyway, the choice will always be the consumers’.

Resources: The Guardian, Wikipedia

The history of barcode printing goes back in 1948 and features Bernard Silver, a graduate student and his friend Norman Woodland. The demand for a system that would automatically read product information during checkout came from the president of Food Fair, the local food chain in Philadelphia.

Using Morse code as inspiration, Woodland and Silver proceeded with their ideas, and in 1949 filed a patent application for a new system of printing patterns and reading system. Two years later, Woodland moved to IBM and tried to interest the company in developing the system.

Despite the interest, the conclusion was that it would take patience for more adequate technology to be developed in the future.

The next person to work on what we nowadays know as barcode was David Collins. As he was working at Pennsylvania Railroad, he became aware of the need to automatically identify railroad cars. He developed an interesting method using blue and yellow reflective stripes attached to the side of the cars, encoding a six digit company identifier and a four-digit car number. Light reflected off the stripes was fed into one of two photomultipliers, filtered for blue or yellow. This system had its faults, but was another step that contributed to the universal adoption of the barcodes.

In 1971 IBM remembered they still employed Woodland, so a new facility in North Carolina was established. Gradually, after failures and improvements, the barcode started to be adopted by more and more commercial chains, especially after exact data regarding the return on investment for a barcode scanner became available.

As expected, extremists and supports of the conspiracy theory did not greet the barcodes very friendly. But their advantages eventually neutralized extreme opinions.

Resource: Wikipedia

Barcode labels are extremely useful. They can be used to keep track of patients (medical history, allergies), rental cars, airline luggage and you name it. Recent advanced technology makes it possible for barcodes to be printed and labelled, respecting a very high level of accuracy.

Labelling is a very important process that has come a long way from a mere piece of paper stating the product name, to a precise label that must contain detailed and real information. Knowing that there is advanced technology you can rely on is very important. ALS, Advanced Labelling Systems offers a range of fast, reliable and economic label printers that answer today’s needs of being informed.

ALS Fast Labeller

Product labelling of food items has been a public issue for quite some time. In May 2012 the government began a nationwide consultation of front-of-pack labelling in an attempt to make choosing healthier food easier.

NFU Campaign

Now the public have taken action after a new National Farmers Union campaign launched 12th October 2012 to encourage shoppers to take photos of food labels they view as poor quality. This can mean the person finds them to be uninformative, misleading or confusing.

The real point of contention for the ‘Flag It’ campaign is that the labelling of products such as cheese and milk do not clearly state the country of origin. NFU director of corporate affairs Tom Hind is concerned that this “can confuse consumers into thinking that they are buying British produce when they are not”.

The campaign will use the photographs sent in from the public to review how supermarkets are currently labelling items, and how the clarity can be improved.

Contract Labelling Service

For customers requiring temporary additional resources for specialist labelling applications, the ALS store offers a cost effective contract labelling service with our industrial labeller. This even includes label on label, which can conceal previous labels you feel may be outmoded or improvable.

Pen has become a universal word. We no longer say fountain pen or ballpoint pen. But could we imagine a ballpoint pen without the spherical point?

Not quite. What is nowadays a simple thing we take for granted, was born after years of experimentation and analysis.

The first patent on a ballpoint pen was issued on 30 October 1888, to John Loud, a leather tanner, who needed a writing instrument that could write on his leather products. Obviously, fountain pens couldn’t do that. But because the instrument could not be used for writing letters, (they were way too coarse) it did not gain commercial usage.

László Bíró, was a frustrated Hungarian newspaper editor. Frustrated because he had to spend too much time filling up fountain pens. So something had to be done. Receiving help from his brother, a chemist , Bíró fitted his pen with a tiny ball in its tip that was free to turn in a socket. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated, picking up ink from the ink cartridge Bíró filed a British patent on 15 June 1938.

What do ballpoint pens have in common with print heads?

A lot. Imagine thermal printers without thermal print heads. The truth is the entire functionality of a thermal printer lies in its print head. Their precision is responsible for the quality of their output. That is, the better the quality of a thermal print head, the better the quality of the printed text.

Thermal print heads are mainly used in the industrial labelling sector.  Bar codes and price tags also use the thermal transfer printing system and implicitly the thermal print heads.

As the barcode is now universal and used beyond its initial commercial purpose, barcode printing is an everyday process that needs to rely on quality thermal print heads. The very first scanning of the famous barcode was of a Wrigley chewing gum in June 1974.

Barcode printing can either use the direct thermal printing method or the thermal transfer printing one. Although a bit less expensive, direct thermal printers produce labels that can become illegible if exposed to heat, direct sunlight, or chemical vapors. Needles to say, the print heads used in the thermal transfer printing type produce a more accurate, long lasting image.

For those interested in the latter option,, as approved partners, is able to supply various thermal print heads like Avery Dennison and Zebra. Other consumables, thermal transfer labels and ribbons can also be found here.

From the seed that is planted by some blistered hands to the product that is displayed on a shop shelf, there is a long way of hard work, profits and losses. Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is aimed at improving farmers’ lives. It targets small communities, gives shoppers the opportunity to reduce poverty through a simple purchase. Although the initiative was more than laudable, something else was needed to make the small community shops more connected and responding to the demands of the supermarket chains that owned the majority of consumers.

The solution was found in 1988, when the first Fairtrade label, Max Havelaar, was launched under the initiative of Nico Roozen, Frans van der Hoff and Dutch ecumenical development agency Solidaridad. The independent certification allowed the goods to reach the supermarkets. Fairtrade labelling allowed consumers and distributors alike to track the origin of the goods and make sure they benefited the farmers at the end of the chain. Label printers make it possible for other business to use the label, but its use on packaging requires prior license agreement.

In 1997, the Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO) was created, with the goal of inspecting that the standards were met across all countries that had adopted the system.

In 2002 FLO launched a new International Fairtrade Certification Mark aiming at increased shelf visibility and easier cross border processes.

At present, there are Fairtrade Certification Marks on many products, the most popular being coffee, tea, bananas, mangoes, cotton, etc.  There are an estimated 14 million people in the developing world that depend on cocoa production. 90% of cocoa is grown and harvested on small family farms of 5 hectares or less, while only 5% comes from larger plantations. Coffee, so much in demand, and so much a product we are used to, requires a lot of hard work. It takes four years for a coffee plant to yield fruit.

The reputation of fair trade has soured over the past few years and more and more young people and children are educated in this direction.

Fairtrade is an example to understand the value of a label. It can enrich a life, financially speaking, it can save one, in the case of food labels, it can help shape the prestige of a brand.

Maybe not that poetic, it is industrial labelling that helps a message – information or brand, get conveyed.

In thermal transfer printing the material is applied to paper or other materials by melting a coating of ribbon so that is stays glued. The process was invented by SATO corporation somewhere around 1940 and has almost become the standard in label printing.

The ribbon, sometimes called the foil is a polyester film which has been coated on the label side with a wax, wax-resin or pure resin “ink”. Another layer of protective coating keeps it from sticking to the printhead. A previous article that you can read here presents presents more details about the types of printer ribbons and their usage.

Zebra thermal transfer ribbons are a type of well known print ribbons that come in the three variants mentioned by the article, are smudge resistant and produce a crisp black image with excellent high speed performance. They provide very good print quality and image on most European uncoated and coated paper facestocks. The ALS Store are approved partners for Zebra Ribbons.

These transfer ribbons can be paired with zebra thermal transfer labels using thermal printers.  Pulses of heat supplied by the printheads transfer an image from the ribbon to the label. When the correct label and thermal transfer ribbon are used in combination, the result is an image with outstanding visual quality and resistant to many elements. Exposure to indoor or outdoor UV light is one of the main cases considered, that is why carbon black is one of the most desirable pigments in black ribbons, as it is very light-stable.

As labelling industry is more and more demanding, it is imperative to use the best thermal transfer ribbons and labels. Also, it is worth mentioning that there is a clear distinction between direct thermal printing and thermal transfer printing. Although the process of direct printing costs less, the results are more sensitive to light and abrasion, this reducing the life of the printed material. The process is appropriate for materials such as general receipts, coupons and event tickets.

When durability is required, thermal transfer printing is the solution. Labels and asset tags are just two examples that fit into this category.