Europe Protects Against Animal Disease Epidemics with Philips RFID

3/1/2004 - In the face of recurring animal disease epidemics, the European Union (EU) has set out to ensure that European meat products meet the highest safety and quality standards. The European Council of Ministers has therefore adopted a Regulation to introduce the electronic identification and registration of goats and sheep by using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). The semiconductor division of Royal Philips Electronics (NYSE: PHG, AEX: PHI) has already succeeded in implementing its RFID technology for animal tracking through a Spanish reference project and an Italian pilot scheme.

In recent years, the repeated outbreak of animal disease epidemics, such as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) and Scrapie in livestock herds has considerably changed the attitude of consumers towards meat products. Consumers are increasingly concerned about the origin and quality of the meat they eat. They want guarantees that the food they consume is of the highest safety and quality standards, and that it has been handled safely throughout the entire supply chain from “farm-to-fork”. As a result, electronic animal tracking to record relevant data pertaining to an animal is rapidly becoming a significant market for identification solutions with a potential market of about one billion RFID chips worldwide, per year.

"Philips supports the industry with its RFID expertise to enable it to take systematic measures aimed at collecting and recording animal data efficiently, to effectively curb the outbreak of animal epidemics and ensure healthy food on our plates,” said Kurt Bischof, marketing manager for Food Safety at Philips Semiconductors. “The animal RFID standard, ISO 11784/85, is already widely accepted and will help to drive non-proprietary high volume solutions for livestock tracking. Philips is driving this trend with its current products and an ambitious product roadmap."

EU adoption of electronic livestock identification regulation
In late 2003, following the IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) RFID animal tracking trial, which was successfully concluded in April 2002, the European Council of Ministers adopted a law throughout Europe requiring the individual electronic tagging of sheep and goats using RFID technology.

Under the new Regulation, chip tagging in compliance with ISO standard 11784/85 will at first be optional, but after a transition phase it will become compulsory starting 1 January 2008 for Member States with a sheep and goat population exceeding 600,000 animals. It will, however, remain optional for Member States with a population smaller than this, except for animals intended for trade within the EU. The collected data will be pooled in a central database within each Member State.

In North America, similar activities are already underway: In Canada, electronic tagging will be binding as of 1 January 2005, and following the latest cases of BSE, the USA is also considering compulsory electronic tagging of animals.

HITAG S chip injection for Spanish cattle
Due to its long read-range and its high modulation depth, the HITAG S IC developed by Philips Semiconductors is well suited for use in animal identification because it overcomes the large amounts of electronic noise and interference typically found in animal processing plants. In spring 2003, the Spanish cattle farmers association, called FEVEX, presented the concept of a new livestock tracking system for cattle based on the HITAG S. In this system, the IC is encased in a glass tube only 22 mm long and 4 mm wide, which is resistant to chemicals and humidity, and injected into the cow just above the hoof. Electronic identification is carried out at convenient pasture and corral points, such as gates and doorways, via reading antennas buried underground.

Italian ePass for meat supply
System integrator WINCAT (a Uniteam company), in cooperation with Frosch Electronics, has created an animal tracking pilot project in Italy, also based on Philips HITAG S chip technology. This system records animal data at all breeding and handling stages, from birth through to the final sale to the consumer. For the first time, this innovative system makes animals the carriers of all relevant data. As well as being stored in a central database, the data is also present in the RFID IC integrated within the animal’s ear tag. Using an interactive input device (Laptop, PC or PDA), the IC offers information on the place of origin, the type of holding, feed used, transport history, veterinary treatments, etc. This information is also made available on the Internet to inspection agencies, retailers and consumers.

About Royal Philips Electronics
Royal Philips Electronics of the Netherlands is one of the world's biggest electronics companies and Europe's largest, with sales of EUR 29 billion in 2003. It is a global leader in color television sets, lighting, electric shavers, medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring, and one-chip TV products. Its 164,500 employees in more than 60 countries are active in the areas of lighting, consumer electronics, domestic appliances, semiconductors, and medical systems. Philips is quoted on the NYSE (symbol: PHG), Amsterdam and other stock exchanges. News from Philips is located at

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