Washington The days of peeling pesky stickers off apples and tomatoes may soon be over. A Georgia company is seeking federal approval for a laser that etches indelible but edible labels onto the skins of fruits and vegetables.
The laser device could tag onions, cucumbers, kiwis, pears - all manner of produce - according to Durand-Wayland Inc. The company wants federal regulations amended to allow it, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday.
The etched logos would be an alternative to the stickers that now mark most fruits and vegetables sold in the United States, though it's not clear they'd be to consumers' liking. The stickers most commonly bear a standard code, called a produce look-up or PLU code, used to ring up fruits and vegetables at the register. They also can include brand names, logos and country of origin information.
"I don't like it. I don't want my fruit lasered. I'll take a sticker over a laser. The less tampering with fruit, the better," said consumer Ellen Hamilton, 41, of Alexandria, Va., when told about the technology.
Durand-Wayland, a LaGrange, Ga., manufacturer of spraying, packing and labeling machinery, wanted to start selling the $38,000 lasers two years ago, but the FDA told it to hold off until it could show they were safe. Any source of radiation, including the light of a laser, used to treat or process food is considered a food additive.
Durand-Wayland President Fred Durand III said they delivered the agency a 3-inch-thick petition with the results of tests that show the technology is safe. The FDA has 180 days to review the findings, filed March 5.
The FDA designated it for expedited review because the technology could improve the agency's ability to track and trace produce in an outbreak of foodborne disease, said Andy Zajac, who oversees petition review in the FDA's office of food additive safety.