Everybody already knows about how barcodes are the connective tissue that keeps supply chains intact. We have all heard how properly performing barcodes can prevent people from being sickened or even killed by wrong medications or dosages being given to patients in hospitals and nursing homes. It is a well known fact that logistics-driven retailers have levied hefty fines to vendors whose products are marked with bad barcodes. But barcode quality is important in ways you might not have considered.
- Barcodes are a means for ensuring food safety. Matrix or 2D barcodes with greater data capacity make it possible to mark food products with attributes such as expiration date, batch number and place of manufacture. This is especially important with perishable foods. Barcodes can be printed on temperature sensing labels that change color when the food item reaches an unsafe temperature such as thawing. If these barcodes don’t work right, food safety is threatened because improperly handled foods, contaminated foods or past-date foods can neither be detected nor recalled. High quality barcodes assure customers of the integrity of the product they are purchasing; they help keep costs down by making product recalls more accurate and timely for manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
- Terrorists finance their activities by trading in counterfeit drugs and medicines. Why? Because it is highly profitable, easy to do, hard to get caught and the penalties are lenient if you do get caught, in comparison to the penalties for dealing narcotics. On August 1, 2013 the Reuters news agency contributed to an article in the Jerusalem Post about a network of front companies that are maintained by Hezbollah. These companies, located in Lebanon, the Gulf States and Europe traffic in counterfeit medicines, according to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Seyassah. Barcodes make it easier to detect counterfeit drugs, regardless of how secretly counterfeit medicines are manufactured, or how cleverly or securely concealed when they are transported.
- The same is true for organized crime. Criminal organizations in Europe have been moving away from illegal drugs in favor of counterfeit drugs because the costs and risks are substantially lower and the profits are much higher—and the “product” is easier to produce. On July 11, 2013 a British citizen was convicted of distributing a bogus version of the cancer medication Avastin. He was sentenced to only 18 months of jail time. The business models of criminal organizations in the US are making the same shift to counterfeit drugs. Serialized barcodes can make it possible to secure the manufacture and movement of legitimate drugs through the supply chain. Because the re-use of barcode data or unauthorized barcodes by criminal organizations can be quickly and easily detected by the electronic supply chain tracking network, barcodes that work right make it more difficult for criminal organizations to conduct business.