Inkable Edibles

Tattooed Produce

Sporting more ink than a roving band of Harley-Davidson bikers, laser-etched fruit is coming to a supermarket near you. The FDA is expected to approve this method of labeling produce in the next month, the USDA reports. And how will it affect the taste? "Not at all," says USDA research microbiologist Jan Narciso. The laser beam removes a tiny bit of the outer layer of the fruit or vegetable, exposing a bit of the pith. "What this does is just penetrates the few cells of that colored layer and exposes the underlying layer. So it doesn't go anywhere near the part of the fruit that you eat. It's just on the peel." To test it, Narciso's lab painted the lasered fruit with pathogens and disease organisms to see if they would cause an infection; they didn't. The laser "zaps the tissue, and it makes kind of like a callus, so that nothing gets through there," she says. Greg Drouillard, the inventor of the technology, says that it can print on almost anything, and asks, "How much of the tomato do you want to cover with information?"