Checkpoint's SmartPak tags use radio frequency (RF) electronic article surveillance (EAS) and are certified for direct food contact. Cryovac integrates the tag into its vacuum shrink bags at the manufacturing stage, thus making tampering impossible as the tag cannot be removed without destroying the entire pack, claim the developers. Cryovac, a producer of food packaging, and Checkpoint, a product identification and inventory shrinkage tools manufacturer, began work on the integration of the tag and the bag in early 2007. The two companies said that the anti-theft packaging is ideally suited for high volume, added value fresh food products that are vulnerable to theft. The integrated tag will trigger an alarm at supermarket exit points unless the product is deactivated through payment at the cash register. Parmigiano theft The Global Retail Theft Barometer's 2007 report highlighted an increased amount of theft of certain food products. The cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, proved to be the number one stolen food item in Italy, showing a shrink rate of about 9 per cent for the approximately 100 million units of the cheese sold in Italian retail outlets. Tests of the anti-theft packaging were carried out with Parmigiano Reggiano in an Italian retail chain for six-months, according to the developers. "Initial studies have shown that this RF-EAS source tagging programme may cut inventory shrinkage of dairy products from 9 per cent to 1 per cent," said the companies in a joint statement. Meeting expectationsThe two companies said that they are testing the tagging system's suitability for softer cheeses and processed meats. Cryovac's marketing director Gerd Wichmann told FoodProductionDaily.com that the tag is already integrated into the shrink bag when purchased by food manufacturers and no modification is required on the packaging and loading equipment in processing plants. "Food manufacturers have to meet retailers' expectations in order to secure shelf space, and this anti-theft device can increase their leverage with the supermarket chains," said Wichmann. No indication of the cost of the anti-theft packaging was given but Wichmann added that: "retailers are driving the solutions for reduction of shrinkage and are prepared to pay a higher margin to food processors that have RF-EAS labelling on their food products, thus offsetting any additional costs manufacturers may incur in using this secure packaging." Transfer of riskThe launch of the anti-theft packaging follows the disclosure from the UK Competition Commission that some supermarkets are passing on the cost of stolen produce to food manufacturers. The watchdog, in its report into the £120bn a year UK groceries market, concluded that retail buyers are transferring 'excessive' risk to suppliers to cover their own losses, with processors often having to agree to pay out costs for shrinkage (loss due to theft, defective and unsold goods) as part of their contract. A number of retailers admitted the practice when asked about it by the commission but insisted that suppliers can be at fault for failing to use secure packaging. The commission rejected the retailers' defence and said that supermarkets must take responsibility for all goods after delivery.