According to AIM Global's subcommittee chair, Bill Hoffman of Advanced ID, the purpose of the proposed standard is to provide two standards-based approaches to animal identification.
"The document includes the existing LF coding standards and focuses on providing additional capability through the use of ISO/IEC standards-based UHF RFID tags," he said.
The ability of RFID technology to deal with livestock and food traceability in the face of new laws, bioterrorism, avian flu and BSE is a field of great potential. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, which hooks miniature antennas up to tiny computer chips smaller than a grain of sand to track items at a distance, is being seen as the best means of ensuring animal traceability.
New mandatory requirements within the EU require the complete traceability of the food chain from processing to transport, storage and distribution. A guidance document lays down detailed implementing rules for operators.
Information on the name, address of producer, nature of products and date of transaction must be systematically registered within each operator's traceability system. This information must be kept for a period of five years and on request, it must immediately be made available to the competent authorities.
The technology is also being driven hard by retailers such as Metro, which see RFID as the natural replacement of industry's current bar code-based tracking systems. This will allow companies to automatically track inventory throughout an entire supply chain.
But it is those at the production end of things that perhaps see most benefit in the technology, as a means of restoring consumer confidence and limiting the possibility of cross-infection. A report of the BSE crisis that hit the UK nearly a decade ago must be avoided at all costs.
The €4.6 billion UK beef industry has never fully recovered from the crisis. Following reports of a possible link between BSE and new variant CJD in 1996, domestic sales of beef products declined immediately by 40 per cent, and in April 1996 household consumption was 26 per cent below the level seen in the previous year.
Export markets were completely lost. The price of beef cattle fell by over 25 per cent, and many abattoirs had to temporarily close down or put their workers on short time.
At the moment, current ISO animal identification standards provide for a globally unique identification number that permits tracking of an animal via database lookup. The draft standard incorporates the use of UHF RFID with expanded memory capacities, along with UHF's greater range, to allow information about the animal's history and condition to be placed in the RFID ear tag on the animal itself.
This eliminates the need to look this data up in a remote database- something that may not be available in the field - and can provide immediate information about the animal's birth location, medication record, and other relevant information.
"The draft RFID animal identification standard is currently being reviewed by the AIM Global Standards Advisory Group for publication as an AIM standard," said Dan Mullen, president of AIM Global. "It will also be submitted to ANSI under the Accredited Standards Organisation method."
All technical standards published by AIM Global, the trade association recognised as the worldwide authority on automatic identification and mobility, undergo a rigorous review process by experts around the world.