In the future, the integration of information technology and packaging technology is expected to deliver greater product value by providing more efficient and reliable decision making (10). Microwave reheating or cooking of prepared food has certain technical limitations that can be overcome by enabling the food, the package, and the microwave oven to share vital information. In the application shown in Figure 2, the package carries the vital informa-
Figure 2. An application of information technology to packaging.
Bar code scanner
Bar code scanner
Food package tion about the food and the package in a printed bar code, and the microwave oven is equipped with a bar code scanner and a microprocessor. The microprocessor, which is linked to the scanner, contains information about the microwave oven characteristics and also contains the logic to process the data from the scanner. Information sharing takes place when the bar code is scanned, and then the scanner transmits the information to the microprocessor, which in turn controls the magnetron and turntable (if applicable) in the microwave oven.
This application offers the advantages of convenience, accuracy, speed, and quality. The consumer has the convenience of automatic data entry that provides greater accuracy and speed, and it is particularly helpful with instructions involving multiple sequence cooking. The microprocessor allows the use of more sophisticated programming instructions to control the power and time of the microwave oven, which can improve the quality of the prepared food. The microprocessor can also be programmed to meet the food preferences of individual consumers.
The integrated technology can also help to facilitate handling, improve traceability, ensure safety, and reduce product loss. For example, other information devices can be incorporated into the package to enable the package to gather and share information on the time-temperature history, distribution pathway, and the quality or safety index of the product.
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