Those sticky decals that get caught in labeling machinery, plastered all over the produce department and stuck on kids' foreheads in gest may be a thing of the past of a new laser tattoo is approved.


The Food and Drug Administration would first have to approve the technology, which is being tested by the Agricultural Research Service and the University of Florida, according to a news release.


The technology involves a laser that etches identifying marks or logos on produce. The etching, or tattoo, would replace decals that contain PLUs and other identification.


But unlike the decals, the tattoos are permanent.


The technology was invented by former UF scientist Greg Drouillard, who now works with Sunkist Growers in Sherman Oaks, Calif.


Microbiologist Jan Narciso at the Citrus and Subtropical Products  Laboratory in Winter Haven, Fla., and UF researcher Ed Etxeberria have tested the technology as an alternative to decals.


A carbon dioxide laser beam was used to etch information into the first few outer cells of the fruit peel.


The permanent etching into the fruit peel does not increase water loss or the entrance of pathogens if the laser label is covered with wax.


Further testing shows the wax may be unnecessary, since the tiny holes etched into the grapefruit peel are essentially cauterized, preventing decay and food pathogen entry.


The wax still is needed to prevent water loss and fruit drying.


The researchers inoculated the fruit with decay organisms and then etched it with the laser. No pathogens were found in the peel or the fruit interior.


The cauterized area is impenetrable to pathogens and decay organisms and resists water loss.


Testing is also being conducted on tomatoes, avocado and other citrus.