Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Manhattan, Kansas » Center for Grain and Animal Health Research » Stored Product Insect and Engineering Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #295735


Location: Stored Product Insect and Engineering Research

Title: Ruggedness of 2D code printed on grain tracers for implementing a prospective grain traceability system to the bulk grain delivery system

item Liang, Kun
item Thomasson, J.
item Shen, Mingxia
item Armstrong, Paul
item Ge, Yufeng
item Lee, K
item Herrman, Timothy

Submitted to: Food Control
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/21/2013
Publication Date: 10/1/2013
Publication URL:
Citation: Liang, K., Thomasson, J.A., Shen, M., Armstrong, P.R., Ge, Y., Lee, K.M., Herrman, T.J. 2013. Ruggedness of 2D code printed on grain tracers for grain traceability system. Food Control. 33:359-365.

Interpretive Summary: Tracing grain from the farm to its final processing destination as it moves through multiple grain handling systems, storage bins and bulk carriers presents numerous challenges to existing recordkeeping systems. This study examined the suitability of bar-coded grain tracers, embedded within the grain, to withstand the rigors of a commercial grain handling operations as defined by the readability of the tracers before and after handling. Sugar and cellulose tracers, based on food grade material, were manufactured and coded using two different exterior coatings for protection. Readability of tracers was done with a common handheld bar-code scanner. The readability of the cellulose based tracers printed with a dot-matrix barcode using food grade ink and coated with hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, was found to perform satisfactorily whereas others did not perform well. This particular type of tracer is considered to be suitable for implementation as a component of a commercial tracing system.

Technical Abstract: Food-grade tracers were printed with two-dimensional Data Matrix (DM) barcode so that they could carry simulated identifying information about grain as part of a prospective traceability system. The key factor in evaluating the tracers was their ability to be read with a code scanner after being removed from a batch of grain at any point in the grain supply chain. After printing, the tracers were measured for initial readability, subjected to ruggedness tests involving abrasion and impact and the effect of moisture conditioning, and measured for final readability. Fourteen treatments involving two tracer types (sugar-based and cellulose-based), two coating materials (edible shellac and hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, or HPMC), and four coat-print procedures were considered. One particular treatment performed very well, whereas most others did not, having either low initial readability rates or low final readability rates after they were subjected to ruggedness testing. The treatment of interest consisted of cellulose-based tracers, printed in DM code with food-grade ink, and coated with HPMC after printing. Initial readability of this treatment averaged 98%, and final readability after ruggedness testing ranged from 89 to 99%, depending on the ruggedness test applied. These readability rates are considered acceptable for commercial application. Since developing an information-carrying tracer particle was the last missing requirement leading to a grain traceability system, all major components of such a system are now available in prototype form.