Pages 157-172 | Received 07 Jan 2014, Accepted 06 Dec 2015, Published online: 17 Oct 2016

This article frames some of the implications of consumer-facing ‘fresh food traceability systems’ for designers. These infrastructures, which support the production and transportation of perishable food, enable the tracking, or ‘traceback’ of different items as they move from farm to table. Food traceability presents a unique paradox: communicating new information about the provenance of food contradicts a longstanding history of obfuscation in the design of its packaging and advertising. In this article I analyze this paradoxical nature of food as a data object, and present designers with a series of contradictory positions they have to navigate when working with fresh food traceability systems. These include ambiguity regarding stakeholders, issues of schematization, and third order effects of ubiquitous food data.

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