Accessibility links

Breaking News

Fruits and Vegetables Now Sport Tattoos

Not long ago, we told you about the tattoo craze in the United States. Little did we know that even our fruit and vegetables are getting tattooed!

That's right. Our artichokes and persimmons and plums.

There was a time when check-out clerks were expected to know an eggplant from a squash, and then ring up the correct price on a cash register.

But then stores introduced fancy varieties that looked a lot like ordinary produce but were organic and pesticide-free and cost twice as much. Spacey clerks could not always tell a free-range radish from a garden-variety one, and would ring up the wrong price. Something had to be done.

So produce distributors began to slap little, coded stickers the size of a wedding ring on each onion or pear. The stickers are encoded with all kinds of information: "This here is a Granny Smith apple, and it's on sale this week for such-and-such a price." Even if the clerk thinks the apple is a watermelon, the scanner will get it right.

But customers hate these stickers. They stick, all right -- to your knife as you cut the fruit, to your clothes, to your hair, to your cat. Peeling them off, you leave an unsightly gouge in your pretty little peach.

So here come tattooed fruits and vegetables. Lasers burn logos and codes right onto the skin of the tomato or orange. And these marks don't peel off. Like a sticker, the tattoo tells scanners what we have here, where it's from, what to charge for it, even how many calories it contains.

You've seen what demented artists have done with human tattoos, turning simple anchors and roses and "I-Love-Mom" designs into Michelangelo productions. Will tattoos of fire-breathing dragons, embedded with computer bar codes, soon be coming to a cumquat near you?