A shell of their former selves: laser etching adds freshness codes, advertising to eggs.

Author:Samuel, Alex

It's not often that an idea can change an industry for the better, but when former New York stockbroker Bradley Parker saw a television program on the dangers of bad eggs in 1998, he began searching for a way to ensure the eggs he bought where fresh.

Thus began EggFusion, a Deerfield, III.-based company that aims to promote freshness and deliver adds through etching on eggs.

After six years of research with Boulder-based technologists, EggFusion began using laser light to permanently apply freshness and traceability coding, as well as advertisements, to individual eggs. Unlike current freshness coding on egg cartons, etching is tamper-proof and stays with the egg even after it is removed from the carton.

The etching process, which only penetrates 5 percent of the shell (between 50 and 90 micrometers), is the only USDA approved etching solution for eggs and provides consumers and retailers with "peace of mind," said EggFusion's chief operating officer Scott Burns.

"We don't allude to creating a fresher, better product," Burns said. "We clearly state it--we gather the information about the processing environment to hold people more accountable and to provide peace of mind."

EggFusion is based in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, but the "Client Solutions Center," the company's technological hub, is based in Boulder. Each plant that uses EggFusion's etching technology is provided with a free etching machine and has sensors installed throughout the egg-washing process.

Information, including water temperature and pH balance, is sent in real-time to and monitored at the Boulder offices. Burns said that on one occasion, the sensors detected a water-temperature problem before employees at the plant did. He believes this technology could help avert a problem similar to the E. coli breakout in spinach last September.

"With a code on our eggs, you can immediately say it came from this plant. We're not...

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