Module 12: Improving Food Safety and Traceability
Table of Contents:
- Topic Note 12.1: The Importance of Standard Setting and Compliance
- Topic Note 12.2: Traceability Technologies, Solutions and Applications
- References and Further Reading
Food production and distribution systems are becoming more interdependent, integrated, and globalized. At the same time, escalating and heavily publicized outbreaks of foodborne diseases have raised awareness of the need to ensure food quality and safety. This need drives much of the technological innovation to trace food consistently and efficiently from the point of origin to the point of consumption.
Traceability is an increasingly common element of public1 and private systems for monitoring compliance with quality, environmental, and other product and/or process attributes related to food. Small-scale farmers may lack the resources to comply with increasingly strict food safety standards, particularly traceability requirements. Given the role of traceability in protecting consumers, ensuring food safety, and managing reputational risks and liability, it is vital to integrate and empower small-scale agricultural producers in the food supply chain through ICTs.
“Traceability” is a concept developed in industrial engineering and was originally seen as a tool to ensure the quality of production and products (Wall 1994). Economic literature from supply-chain management defines traceability as the information system necessary to provide the history of a product or a process from origin to point of final sale (Wilson and Clarke 1998, Jack, Pardoe, and Ritchie 1998, Timon and O’Reilly 1998).
Traceability (or product tracing) systems differentiate products for a number of reasons. Food traceability sys-tems allow supply chain actors and regulatory authorities to identify the source of a food safety or quality problem and initiate procedures to remedy it. While traceability in the food sector has focused increasingly on food safety (Smyth and Phillips 2002), agrifood and nonfood sectors such as forestry and textiles (particularly cotton) have instituted traceability requirements for product identification, differentiation, and historical monitoring. Specific standards for food traceability have been mandated internationally; by law in the European Union (EU), Japan, and more recently the United States; and by private firms and associations.
In the context of agricultural policy, traceability refers to full traceability along the supply chain, with the identification of products and historical monitoring, and not just the separation of products under specific criteria at one or more stages of the chain. The Codex Alimentarius Commission2 (CAC 2006) defines traceability as:
the ability to follow the movement of a food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution. . . . The traceability/product tracing tool should be able to identify at any specified stage of the food chain (from production to distribution) from where the food came (one step back) and to where the food went (one step forward), as appropriate to the objectives of the food inspection and certification system.
The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO/DIS 22005 (November 20, 2006, N36Rev1) has largely adopted this definition; however it is a bit broader in scope as traceability is viewed not only as a tool for meeting food safety objectives but for achieving a number of other objectives in other sectors—for instance, in forestry for chain of custody traceability, sustainable certifications, geographical indicators, or animal health. The EU General Food Law, Article 18 Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, defines traceability as
. . . the ability to track food, feed, food-producing animal or substance intended to be, or expected to be used for these products at all of the stages of production, processing, and distribution.”3
In comparison to some international and commercial standards for traceability, the EU does not require internal traceability4 (that is, it does not require all inputs to match all outputs) (Campden BRI 2009).
For food products that are genetically modified, many countries use identity preservation schemes, but only the EU requires traceability. The EU (Directive 2001/18/EC) additionally defines traceability in relation to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and products as:
. . . the ability to trace GMOs and products produced from GMOs at all stages of the placing on the market throughout the production and distribution chains facilitating quality control and also the possibility to with-draw products. Importantly, effective traceability provides a “safety net” should any unforeseen adverse ef-fects be established.
As noted in CAC (2006), traceability can also help identify a product at any specified stage of the supply chain: where the food came from (one step back) and where the food went (one step forward). Simply knowing where a food product can be found in the supply chain does not improve food safety, but when traceability systems are combined with safety and quality management systems, they can make associated food safety measures more effective and efficient (CAC 2006).
By providing information on suppliers or customers involved in potential food safety issues, traceability can enable targeted product recalls or withdrawals. Similarly, the implementation of food safety management systems can support efficient, consistent traceability. For example, prerequisite programs such as good agricultural and management practices and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system include requirements for record keeping that can support requirements for traceability. The areas of animal identification, disease prevention and control, nutrient management, production safety, and certification for export all include practices that contribute to the efficacy of traceability systems. In summary, traceability can:
- Improve the management of hazards related to food safety and animal health.
- Guarantee product authenticity and provide reliable information to customers.
- Enhance supply-side management and improve product quality.
The benefits of traceability for consumers, government authorities, and business operators are widely recog-nized. Yet for small-scale farmers in developing countries, especially farmers producing horticultural and other fresh food products, traceability requirements can represent barriers to trade. The market for safe and traceable food can exclude small-scale agricultural producers who lack the resources to comply with increasingly strict standards, particularly requirements for tracking and monitoring environmental and supply chain variables through sophisticated technologies.
Wider access to ICTs may lift some of these barriers. The proliferation of mobile devices, advances in communications, and greater affordability of nanotechnology offer potential for small-scale producers to implement traceability systems and connect to global markets. Mobile phones, radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, wireless sensor networks, and global positioning systems (GPS) make it possible to monitor environmental and location-based variables, communicate them to databases for analysis, and comply with food safety and traceability standards. In the context of food safety and smallholders’ participation in global markets, this module explores incentives for investing in traceability systems and the prospects for traceability to empower small-scale producers in the value chain. It includes detailed information on standards, technical solutions, and innovative practices.
Food Safety: A Challenge of Global Proportions
Foodborne disease outbreaks and incidents, including those arising from natural, accidental, and deliberate contamination of food, have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as major global public health threats of the 21st century (WHO 2007b). WHO estimates that 2.2 million people die from diarrheal diseases largely attributed to contaminated food and water (WHO (2007a). The global burden of foodborne illness caused by bacteria, viruses, parasitic microorganisms, pesticides, contaminants (including toxins), and other food safety problems is unknown but thought to be considerable (Kuchenmüller et al. 2009).
Food safety issues have human, economic, and political costs. These costs are exacerbated by animal husbandry practices that increase the numbers of human pathogens, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and zoonotic pathogens in meat and dairy products; unsafe agricultural practices involving the use of manure, chemical fertilizer, pesticide, and contaminated water on fresh fruits and vegetables; the progressive influence of time and temperature on globally traded products such as seafood, meat, and fresh produce; the contamination of processed food by bacteria, yeast, mold, viruses, parasites, and mycotoxins; the presence of foreign objects causing injury to the consumer such as glass, metal, stones, insects, and rodents; and the threat of bioterrorism (Safe Food International 2005).
Cases recorded in WHO’s epidemiological records, medical journals, and other record systems over several decades demonstrate the extent of the problem (table 12.1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 48 million cases of foodborne illness occur each year in the United States, including 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.5 The three primary avenues of contamination are production, processing, and shipping and handling. In light of global food safety concerns, the WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety, endorsed in January 2002 by the WHO Executive Board, outlined a preventive approach to food safety, with increased surveillance and more rapid response to foodborne outbreaks and contamination incidents (WHO 2002). This approach substantially expands the ability to protect food supplies from natural and accidental threats and provides a framework for addressing terrorist threats to food (WHO 2008).
Components of Food Traceability Systems
Not only foodborne illnesses but globalization, consumer demand, and terrorism threats have impelled the diffusion and growth of traceability systems in supply chains for food and agriculture. Food is a complex product (Golan, Krissof, and Kuchler 2004), and modern food production, processing, and distribution systems may integrate and commingle food from multiple sources, farms, regions, and countries (Cannavan n.d.). Food products covered by traceability standards include fresh produce such as mangoes, avocados, and asparagus; bulk foods such as milk, soybeans, specialty coffee, and olive oil; fish and seafood; and livestock for meat and dairy. This module also touches on the role of ICTs in animal identification, a prerequisite for implementing livestock traceability in the meat and dairy sectors. (Click here for Table 12.1)
Food products may be differentiated through systems of (1) identity-preserved production and marketing (IPPM), (2) segregation, and (3) traceability. IPPM systems are important for providing information to consumers about the provenance of a product when the attributes may not be visible or detectable in the product. They are also useful for capturing product premiums. Segregation systems are used to prevent the mixing of novel varieties in the handling of like varieties or to discourage the mixing of a segregated product with like products if potential food safety concerns exist. Traceability systems, on the other hand, allow sources of contamination in the supply chain to be identified (Smyth and Phillips 2002), which enables a transparent chain of custody, raises credibility, and makes it possible to transfer information on the steps taken to alleviate food safety concerns (McKean 2001). Unsafe food can be recalled because information on all possible sources and supplies of contaminated food can be traced one step forward, one step back, or end to end.
Traceability systems can be classified according their capacity for (1) internal traceability and (2) chain traceability. “Internal traceability” refers to data recorded within an organization or geographic location, whereas “chain traceability” involves recording and transferring data through a supply chain between various organizations and locations involved in the provenance of food. Food contamination may occur at the farm, during processing or distribution, in transit, at retail or food service establishments, or at home. Fundamentally, traceability systems involve the unique identification of food products and the documentation of their transformation through the chain of custody to facilitate supply chain tracking, management, and detection of possible sources of failure in food safety or quality.
The smallest traceable unit will vary by food product and industry. Some of the data elements may include the physical location that last handled the product, as well as the type of supply chain partner (producer, processor, or broker, for example); incoming lot numbers of product received; amount of product produced or shipped; physical location where cases were shipped; lot number of the product shipped to each location; date/time when the product was received or shipped; date/time each lot was produced or harvested; ingredients used in the production of the product, along with corresponding lot numbers; and immediate source of ingredients and when they were received.
Good practices in traceability entail making the lot number and name of the production facility visible on each case of product and recording the lot number, quantity, and shipping location on invoices and bills of lading. Traceability requires each facility to record data when a product is moved between premises, transformed/further processed, or when data capture is necessary to trace the product. Such instances are called critical tracking events. Data captured in critical tracking events are vital to linking products, both simple and complex, within a facility and across the supply chain (IFT 2009).
Traceability data can be static or dynamic, mandatory or optional. Static data do not change, whereas dynamic data can change over time and through the chain of custody (Folinas, Manikas, and Manos 2006). “Trace back” implies that a system can identify production/processing steps that resulted in the creation of the product. “Trace forward” implies that a system can identify all derivatives of the product used as an ingredient in numerous other products. Food traceability systems and definitions in standards, laws, and regulations are broadly conceptualized to permit producers to determine the breadth, depth, and precision of systems based on specific objectives (Golan et al. 2004). (For definitions and standards, see Topic Note 12.1.) “Breadth” denotes the amount of information a traceability system captures, “depth” refers to how far backward or forward the system tracks an item, and “precision” shows the degree to which the system can pinpoint food characteristics and movement. Figure 12.1 illustrates these concepts for the attributes of interest in the stages of coffee production.
Source: Golan et. al. 2004
Note: GE= genetically engineered.
Traceability data are recorded through media including but not limited to pen/paper, barcodes, RFIDs, wireless sensor networks, mobile devices and applications, enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, and Internet-based applications. Information related to product tracing may be recorded and transmitted through management information systems or, in the case of smaller operations, paperwork such as invoices, purchase orders, and bills of lading. Traceability data may also be captured directly from products such as fresh produce, seafood, and livestock. Products may be tagged with barcodes or RFIDs, which store product and associated data. Wireless sensors may transmit data on temperature, spoilage, or location to RFIDs tagged to products. Topic Note 12.2 provides detailed information on traceability technologies and systems.
Implementing Food Traceability Systems in Developing Countries
Nearly 500 million people reside on small farms in developing countries (Hazell et al. 2006). Their participation in markets typically is constrained by inadequate farm-level resources, farm-to-market logistical bottlenecks, and more general transaction costs in matching and aggregating dispersed supplies to meet buyer and consumer demand. These “traditional” constraints have been amplified and in some cases surpassed by “new” challenges related to complying with product and process standards, including strict traceability requirements, set and enforced by governments and private supply chain leaders (Jaffee, Henson, and Diaz Rios, forthcoming).
The implementation of traceability systems and assurance standards is controversial (Schulze et al. 2008), but it can be especially so in the context of small-scale producers. Weinberger and Lumpkin (2009) have expressed concern that traceability requirements and sanitary and phytosanitary issues will increasingly constrict exports of food products from developing countries, where poor regulation of chemical use, pollutants, and a steep learning curve in traceability capacity restrict growers’ and processors’ participation.
Many developing countries lag in developing and implementing food safety and traceability standards, but some have selectively met demands in high-income export markets thanks to regulatory, technical, and administrative investments. From 1997 to 2003, more than half of the List 1 countries recognized by the EU as having equivalent standards of hygiene in the capture, processing, transportation, and storage of fish and fish products were low- or middle-income countries.
Jaffee and Henson (2004b) suggest that some countries use improved food quality and safety standards as a catalyst to reposition themselves in the global market; the key for developing countries is to “exploit their strengths and overcome their weaknesses such that they are overall gainers rather than losers in the emerging commercial and regulatory context.” As an example, the value of Kenya’s fresh vegetable exports increased from US$ 23 million to US$ 140 million between 1991 and 2003 after stricter food safety and quality standards led producers to reorient their operations (Jaffee and Henson 2004b).
Any application of product traceability systems must take into account the specific capabilities of developing countries. If an importing country has objectives or outcomes of its food inspection and certification system that cannot be met by an exporting country, the importing country should consider providing assistance to the exporting country, especially if it is a developing country. Assistance may include longer time frames for implementation, flexibility of design, and technical assistance (CAC 2006). In recent years, a variety of traceability systems have been implemented in the developing world, including systems for fresh fruit, vegetables, grain, oilseeds, bulk foods, seafood, fish, and livestock (Click here for Table 12.2). Aside from the examples in the table, Korea has implemented systems for agricultural product tracing, and Jordan has established a framework for product tracing and uses a national digital database to track and investigate product and disease movement (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan 2004).
Support for traceability projects designed to connect small-scale producers to global markets comes from a variety of sources: (1) nonprofit organizations and development agencies (such as IICD for Fresh Food Trace in Mali and IFC for olive oil tracking in Palestine); (2) governments (Botswana and Korea for livestock tracking; Thailand and Vietnam for seafood); and (3) the private sector (ShellCatch for seafood tracking in Chile). The sections that follow provide examples of how food traceability systems have been implemented, particularly in low-income economies.
In addition to support systems for developing countries, mobile technology provides new opportunities for smallholders to connect with export markets. Mobile technologies have not only alleviated asymmetries in the flow of information from the market to smallholders (Muto and Yamano 2009), but hold great potential for enabling the counterflow of information from small-scale producers to markets to meet traceability requirements (figure 12.2). For example, farmers may use a mobile device to input information on the variety grown, planting and harvest dates, and use of farming inputs. Data captured by smallholders can be integrated with information systems and centralized databases to provide greater transparency to supply chain partners and consumers on the farming process, inputs, and output. The integration of wireless sensor networks, RFIDs, and mobile technology could yield sophisticated means to capture data during farming and minimize the need for manual data input through mobile devices.
By fostering more linkages, socialization, and networks between small-scale producers, the diffusion of mobile technology can address issues of geographic dispersion and linkages to traders, other farmers, or market groups for quality assurance, marketing, and sales. Empowering Smallholder Farmers in Markets,6 a research project, found that international trader-led linkages can empower smallholders to supply high-quality, traceable produce and gain from quality-linked awards funded by the trader. For example, Italian coffee roaster Illycaffè increased its procurement of superior Brazilian green coffee from smallholders by investing significantly in quality assurance training and market information for smallholders. The company has won competitions and awards for best growers and for commanding above-market prices for the product (Onumah et al. 2007).
|Source: Tina George Karippacheril.|
Fresh Produce Traceability for Quality Control
Fresh produce must move quickly through the supply chain to avoid spoilage. After harvest, fresh produce is handled and packed by a shipper or by a grower-shipper and exported or sold directly or through wholesalers and brokers to consumers, retailers, and food service establishments. Traceability systems track fresh produce along the supply chain to identify sources of contamination, monitor cold chain logistics, and enhance quality assurance.
A good example is the use of RFID technology by an avocado producer in Rio Blanco, Chile, for temperature and cold chain monitoring. RFID tags called “paltags” (palta is the Chilean word for “avocado”) are attached to the fruit on the tree, and after harvest, the fruit and tags are sorted, washed, waxed, and transported in pallets. Pallets are tagged to monitor temperature during transport, and should the temperature rise above standard levels, pallets are put back into cold storage by quality inspectors at the harbor. Once the pallets arrive at the port in California, the temperature is read by handheld readers to ascertain whether the temperature has risen above acceptable levels, thus checking quality and safety before shipping the avocados to marketers (Swedborg 2010; “Awards Honor RFID Innovators,” RFID Update, 2007).
Fresh produce exporters may also be offered centralized cooling and shipping services. The Fresh Produce Terminal in South Africa tracks fruit into the warehouse and onto shipping vessels, deploying 250 vehicle-mounted computers and 100 mobile computers from Symbol Technologies (Parikh, Patel, and Schwartzman 2009).
Bulk Produce Traceability for Product Authenticity
Bulk produce is more challenging to trace than fresh produce. Products such as grain, coffee, olive oil, rice, and milk from multiple farms are combined in silos and storage tanks, making it difficult to trace them back to their sources (IFT 2009).
Yet traceability systems for bulk products have been implemented in developing countries, even among small-holders. For example, the National Federation of Coffee Growers in Colombia, a nonprofit organization for 500,000 small farmers, identifies and markets high-quality Colombian coffee from unique regions or with exceptional characteristics (“Finalists Unveiled for the Fourth Annual RFID Journal Awards,” RFID Journal, 2010). The federation commands a 200 percent premium transferred entirely to its growers. Its subsidiary, Almacafe, which handles warehousing, quality control, and logistics, implemented a traceability system using RFID tags in 2007 for specialty coffee for its internal supply chain, from farms to warehouses and during processing, bagging, roasting, and trading for export. Although barcodes were considered first, RFID tags were eventually used because barcodes require line of sight and clear labels to be read, which might have been a problem, considering that coffee sacks weigh more than 40 kilograms and tend to be thrown around.
The RFID tags each cost about US$ 0.25 (paid by the federation), are encased in a wear-resistant capsule, and are distributed to farmers with a farm identification number and a specialty coffee program code. The coffee is sold to one of 35 cooperatives and transported to one of 15 warehouses, where tags are read by two RFID antennas on either side of a conveyor belt with 99.9 percent accuracy for data and delivery time. Tags are read at each step of the process, and if the coffee does not meet quality standards, it is rejected and the database is updated. In 2008, the federation extended its program with a pilot to help adapt its traceability model to the Tanzanian coffee supply chain.
Consumers may demand systems to trace fertilizer and pesticide in bulk products. In Thailand, for example, exporters require farmers to provide product information regarding the farm, crop varieties, planting, irrigation, fertilizer application, insect or disease emergence, pesticides or chemicals used, harvest date, costs incurred, problems, and selling price (Manarungsan, Naewbanij, and Rerngjakrabhet 2005). Figure 12.3 shows traceability activities carried out along the supply chain for green soybeans, from farmer to broker to processor.
Traceability systems for bulk goods are also implemented for chain of custody monitoring and quality assurance based on consumer demand. Olive oil, a high-value food, is sometimes blended and sold by distributors and marketers, and traceability helps identify the source, method, variety, and farm where the crop was harvested, so it becomes easier for consumers to determine if the olive oil they are buying is genuine. In North Africa, a combination of GPS, mobile devices, electronic security bolts, and sensors are used for end-to-end, real-time monitoring of perishable olive oil shipments from Spain and Morocco by Transmed Foods, Inc., the United States distribution arm of Crespo Foods, and Savi Technologies (Savi Technology 2009). In another example, an IFC project to improve the competitiveness and export prospects for West Bank olive oil assists small and medium-size enterprises in implementing a basic traceability program to maintain quality, including managing data related to the sources of oil, pressing, handling, storage, and packing operations.
|Source: Manarungsan, Naewbanij, and Rerngjakrabhet 2005.|
Seafood Traceability for Safety and Sustainability
Seafood traceability enhances the value of suppliers’ brands and consumers’ confidence in those brands. For traceability, monitoring, and control, data about the farm of origin, processing plant, current location, and tem-perature are collected and made available to participants in the supply chain, including wholesalers, shippers, and retailers. If a problem arises, this information enables a targeted market recall and limits the impact on consumers. Seafood traceability is implemented to comply with the EU’s zero tolerance of residues of banned antibiotics (chloramphenicol and nitrofuran). Thailand, one of the world’s largest shrimp exporters, saw exports drop steeply to US$ 1.72 billion in 2002 from average annual revenue of US$ 2.3 billion between 1998 and 2001 (Manarungsan, Naewbanij, and Rerngjakrabhet 2005). The decline caused the Thai private and public sectors to tighten sanitary measures on chemical antibiotic residues in shrimp and adopt probiotic farming techniques, disease-resistant shrimp, and laboratory diagnostics and testing. Farmers and cooperatives must register to facilitate traceability, and quality management systems have been implemented to isolate quality and safety issues along the value chain. The Department of Fisheries has been working with farmers to introduce GAP (Good Agricultural Practice), a code of conduct for sustainable shrimp aquaculture, and HACCP standards and to improve product documentation and traceability.
The department requires farmers to fill out a “shrimp catching form,” which includes the catch date, total shrimp weight, name of the farmer, and ID number. Some central markets also require suppliers and buyers to complete this form to enhance traceability. Registering for traceability gives cooperative members access to laboratory test services, training, and information and experience sharing through networking. They also receive funding of US$ 1,160 and kits to perform their own diagnostic tests. Marine Stewardship Council certification7 requires shrimp farmers to notify the Department of Fisheries five days before harvesting, to facilitate tracing shrimp back to their origin (Manarungsan, Naewbanij, and Rerngjakrabhet 2005).
The Vietnamese State Agency for Technological Innovation has collaborated with the Vietnamese Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers and private firms (IBM and FXA Group) to implement a seafood traceability system. The system is based on RFID technology (“Vietnamese Agency Seeks Seafood Traceability,” RFID News, 2009).
Livestock Traceability for Disease Control and Product Safety
Unlike other food industries, the livestock industry has a long history of implementing animal identification and traceability systems to control disease and ensure the safety of meat and dairy products. Lessons from livestock traceability systems may apply to other areas of food safety.
Namibia was an early adopter of such systems in 2004. Botswana maintains one of the world’s largest livestock identification systems and had tagged 3 million cattle by 2008. Botswana’s livestock identification and trace-back system uses RFID technology to uniquely identify livestock throughout the country. The system enables access to lucrative markets in the European Union, where traceability is a requirement for beef from birth to slaughter. A bolus inserted into the animal’s rumen contains a passive RFID (it has no battery or moving parts) microchip with a very hard ceramic coating, which does not interact with stomach enzymes or acids. Fixed readers placed at 300 locations scan the bolus of every animal in the herd to obtain identification numbers, information on new registrations, and the status of disease treatments in the herd. The information is relayed to a central database and on to 46 district offices. Aside from traceability, the tagging system enables weight and feed to be monitored, yield to be managed, breeding history tracked, and animals selected for breeding (Burger 2003).
Animal identification and traceability systems have numerous applications, such as tracking animal movement, monitoring health, controlling disease, and managing nutrition and yield. RFID tagging systems for livestock contain unique identification data and information on the animal’s location, sex, name of breeder, origin of livestock, and dates of movement. Handheld readers are used to register vaccination information and dates; the data are relayed to a central database.
The Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Department has introduced a government-run system to control disease outbreaks among 80,000 cattle. The system was implemented to increase the competitiveness of Malaysia’s livestock industry by meeting international import standards and domestic halal market standards (“Malaysia Begins RFID-enabled Livestock Tracking Program,” RFID News, 2009). China has a pilot RFID program for 1,000 pigs in Sichuan Chunyung to track epidemics and enable traceability from birth to slaughter for consumers (“China Fixes RFID Tags on Pigs to Track Epidemics,” ICT Update 2003). In South Africa, the Klein Karoo Cooperative tagged 100,000 ostriches to comply with traceability requirements for meat exports to the EU (“Project Klein Karoo Cooperative in South Africa,” ICT Update 2003).
Korea was another early adopter of animal identification techniques and technologies, using general ear tags from 1978 to 1994, barcodes in 1995, and RFID since 2004. Korea introduced a full beef traceability system in 2008, in the wake of the BSE scare, to promptly identify food safety problems and ensure end-to-end traceability. Korea also uses DNA markers to trace components of carcasses. Markers recommended by the International Society for Animal Genetics are used for verification (Bowling et al. 2008).
Figure 12.4 illustrates the 2001 Scottish Borders full traceability system for cattle. The systems uses RFID ear tags for unique identification and a portable transceiver and data logger that transfers data to a farm computer or a central computer for farmers who do not have a personal computer.
In dairy farming, RFID technology enables unique identification and monitoring of cattle, their feeding habits, health issues, and breeding history to improve yield management. The technology is integrated with feeding machines to determine the correct amount of nutrition for individual animals. The RFID chip sends data about the animal’s feeding habits, dietary needs, and other information to a sensor on the farm. The data are stored in central databases and analyzed by farm managers and supervisors to monitor the animals’ health and nutritional mix.
India has introduced cattle tagging for dairy farming in the states of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The BG Chitale Dairy in Maharashtra has tagged 7,000 cows and buffalo and plans to extend tagging to about 50,000 animals (“Milk Tastes Better with RFID,” RFID News, 2010). (See IPS “RFID Facilitates Insurance Credit for India’s Livestock Producers” in Module 7.)
Traceability systems may be implemented to improve the global competitiveness of livestock and meat exports, the quality of meat, and chain of custody traceability. Beef is placed in refrigerated trucks and containers and sealed with a sensor bolt and a tag for identification. Shipments are tracked to ensure that they do not remain in one place for too long. At key points in the supply chain, such as when the beef is unloaded after it has been shipped from the port, the tag is read with a mobile reader to check for evidence of tampering prior to unloading, and tag data are stored in supply chain databases.
|Source: From Pettitt 2001, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Scientific and Technical Review.|
Namibia, which started tracking beef in 2004, was one of the earliest emerging market adopters of advanced technologies to ensure quality and traceability (Collins 2004). A pilot program executed through a public-private partnership with Savi Technology involved the application of RFIDs and sensor bolts to containers of chilled and frozen beef shipped from Namibia to the UK as part of the Smart and Secure Tradelanes initiative extended to African ports. In March 2009, Namibia issued new animal identification regulations, which required livestock producers to identify cattle with one visual ear tag and one RFID ear tag. Cattle must be individually registered in the Namibian Livestock Identification and Traceability System. Namibia has also set up a veterinary fence to avoid contamination: Cattle from northern Namibia cannot be exported and must be consumed locally, and cattle from southern Namibia are protected from diseases and exported to Europe. Namibia also sources non-genetically modified (GM) maize from South Africa at a premium to ensure that beef sold in Europe is considered non-GM.
Basic technologies for animal identification and traceability have applications other than food safety and food security. Cattle rustling threatens human security in East Africa, a region characterized by nomadic movements of people with livestock over vast and hostile terrain. The Mifugo Project (mifugo is Swahili for “livestock”), ratified by Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda, seeks to prevent, combat, and eradicate cattle rustling in East Africa (Siror et al. 2009). Traditional methods of identifying cattle are harmonized with technologically advanced approaches for unique identification, tracking, and recovery of stolen animals. Livestock tags may be queried remotely using the Internet, SMS, and wireless communication through mobile phones to track and monitor animals.
Key Challenges and Enablers
Implementing traceability technologies for food safety and other purposes does not come without its challenges. Broadly speaking, the main challenges lie in data collection, processes, technological solutions, business models, costs, and learning. Some of these challenges will be discussed in more depth in the Topic Notes.
In traditional societies, traceability is inherent, because production and consumption occur in the same place, but complying with modern traceability requirements for faraway global markets poses a challenge for small-scale producers with few resources. For example, complying with record-keeping arrangements associated with food safety assurance through HACCP-based systems, with their detailed traceability systems, requires widespread education and cooperation throughout the supply chain (Unnevehr and Jensen 1999). To understand traceability applications for fresh produce and horticultural products, bulk produce, seafood, and livestock, small-scale producers will need to master a considerable range of skills and information.
Although traceability capacity might have some positive effects on domestic markets in developing countries, by and large traceability systems are unidirectional—they track the chain of custody of food exported from developing countries to developed countries. Developing-country farmers who are unable to meet traceability requirements run the risk of being marginalized. Jaffee and Masakure (2005) found that produce export markets in Kenya relied on the exporters’ own farms for products that required traceability; products demanding less traceability came from small-scale outgrowers.
Some evidence indicates that the global movement toward stricter food safety and traceability requirements has translated into stricter demands in domestic markets in developing countries. For example, the rise of supermarkets in Latin America, with their quality and safety procurement standards and associated record-keeping requirements, had a negative impact on smallholder participation, although some cases of success were noted where there was public or private technical assistance (Reardon and Berdegué 2002).
The costs associated with implementing traceability systems include investments in capital and infrastructure, record keeping, and improvements in harvesting and processing. Unlike small-scale producers, large-scale producers and industry associations are better equipped to upgrade their operations in compliance with traceability standards; the added cost of record keeping is small compared with the potential financial damages of a product recall (Spencer 2010). The questions that remain, then, are who pays for the cost of implementing food traceability systems, particularly in the case of smallholders, and how sustainable those systems can be in the long run.
With respect to business processes, an important challenge involves the poor integration of organizations in the value chain. Proprietary tracking systems allow tracing one step forward or back, but they rarely allow traceability through the full life cycle of a product. Organizations in a value chain may be reluctant to share proprietary commercial data about a product, with the exception of requirements for recalls.
Studies from the industrial sector, where traceability systems and techniques originated, emphasize that the main difficulties lie in the design of an internal traceability system for a given, complex production process (Moe 1998; Wall 1994). A study on traceability in the United States, undertaken by the International Institute of Food Technologies (IFT), found that challenges are related to both external and internal traceability. External traceability requires accurate recording and storage of information on products and ingredients coming into a facility and information on products leaving a facility. This requirement frequently proves problematic, because industry partners in a food supply chain may not consistently record and store the lot number of the incoming product or case. For internal traceability, data on ingredients and products that may undergo transformation within a facility must be tracked. In some cases, there may be confusion in the assignment of new lot numbers for products that do not match the incoming lot number for products that enter a facility and undergo transformation. Industry practices on data capture, recording, storage, and sharing also vary widely. Paperwork is often inconsistent or incomplete, individual products or lots may not be labeled with unique identifiers, and standardized definitions for data elements may be lacking (IFT 2009).
For small-scale producers, group systems development and certification may ease some of the constraints in implementing traceability systems. The GlobalG.A.P. standard (www.globalgap.org), for example, allows group certification for smallholders to facilitate their access to markets. Small-scale farmers and producers may also benefit from capacity strengthening in assessing and selecting appropriate technologies for traceability; building networks and partnerships with public, private, or nonprofit organizations that can help finance and build traceability systems; and traceability schemes facilitated through smallholder cooperatives or the public or private sector. Finally, traceability technologies implemented specifically for high-value crops may also expand smallholders’ ability to reach key markets.
Golan, Krisoff, and Kuchler (2004) have argued that mandatory traceability requirements that allow for variations in traceability or target specific traceability gaps may be more efficient than systemwide requirements. They may be better suited to varying levels of breadth, depth, and precision of traceability in different firms.Developed countries’ experiences with traceability may in some cases be useful for building similar capacity in other countries. Japanese farms, unlike those in most developed countries, are small but advanced with respect to traceability, a situation that could lend itself well to sharing experiences with small-scale farmers in developing countries (Setboonsarng, Sakai, and Vancura 2009). It could provide insights into the most effective ways to implement traceability systems and the internal and external capacities and resources needed for smallholders to upgrade successfully and comply with safety and traceability requirements.
Incentives to invest in traceability systems also act as key enablers for their development and use. Investments are often driven by regulation and access to markets, the long-term costs associated with public product recalls, the proliferation of certification systems and standards (Heyder, Hollmann-Hespos, and Theuvsen 2009), and pressure from influential external stakeholders such as retailers, consumers, lenders, and NGOs.
Yet investments in traceability systems offer viable benefits and incentives for actors in the supply chain, including swift and precise recalls of unsafe food; premium pricing for safe, sustainable, and traceable food; cost savings and business process efficiencies; and greater consumer confidence, among others (figure 12.5). It is worth exploring some of these incentives in detail, because they offer potential insights for preventing the adoption of systems that exclude smallholders. Among smallholders, clearly the benefits of establishing or investing in traceability systems should be balanced in relation to the associated costs, with considerations for the long-term sustainability of those investments.
|Source: Tina George Karippacheril.|
Preventing Recalls of Unsafe Food
Food traceability systems make it possible to take a proactive approach to food safety and prevent the reputa-tional and economic damage—to producers, products, firms, and nations—inflicted by product recalls. For example, the complex recall of contaminated peanut products in the United States is estimated to have been one of the most expensive in that country (Click here for Figure 12.6)
A well-known case of the potential damage of a recall on a young industry in a developing country occurred with raspberries in Guatemala. Following reports of a Cyclospora outbreak, and in the absence of traceability capabilities, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued an import alert, denying all Guatemalan raspberries entry into the United States. The number of raspberry growers declined dramatically from 85 in 1996 to 3 in 2001. Producers around the world noted the devastating effects of the ensuing trade restrictions on the entire industry and the role traceability systems could have played in reassuring the public and containing the problem to a few growers (Calvin, Flores, and Foster 2003).
Gaining Premium Prices for Safe, Traceable Food
As noted, traceability systems and technologies are also used to certify geographical origin, certify sustainable production processes, monitor the chain of custody, facilitate identity preservation and product marketing, and manage supply chains. Some of these applications enable producers to earn price premiums for sustainable, certifiable, and identifiable specialty food products. The Almacafe model, discussed earlier, enables smallholders to command a 200 percent premium for specialty coffee from unique regions in Colombia—strong motivation for farmers to adopt traceability technologies.
In Honduras, the ECOM Agroindustrial Corporation, whose customers are willing to pay high prices for high-quality, traceable products, supports farmers through technical assistance and training (Pfitzer and Krishnaswamy 2007). With initial technical support, women belonging to a shea butter cooperative in Burkina Faso learned to use GPS to document the source of the shea fruit they processed and gain certification under Bio-Ecocert and Bio-NOP, which guarantee that a product is 100 percent natural and has been manufactured under conditions that respect human and environmental health. Certification enabled them to enter more lucrative export markets—despite the fact they that are small-scale, predominantly illiterate producers. See Module 8for details.
Building Consumer Confidence
Traceability not only ensures food quality but builds consumers’ trust by making the supply chain more transparent (Bertolini, Bevilacqua, and Massini 2006). Consumer confidence builds demand for products. Studies suggest that consumers in developed countries may be willing to pay more for safe and traceable food. A study in Korea (Choe et al. 2008) found that consumers were willing to pay a premium for traceable food and to purchase it in greater quantities. A consumer preferences study of traceability, transparency, and assurances for red meat in the United States suggests that consumers are willing to pay for traceability and that the market there for traceable food may be profitable (Dickinson and Bailey 2002). Although traceability systems tend to be unidirectional, consumers in domestic markets in the developing world may also benefit from their countries’ adoption of traceability techniques and systems.
Trends and Issues
Increasing concerns about global food safety have positioned traceability as an important component of food safety and quality regulations, management systems, and certification processes. Stringent food safety and traceability requirements trigger a new set of transaction costs for small-scale producers without adequate capital investment and public infrastructure (Pingali, Khwaja, and Meijer 2007; McCullough, Pingali, and Stamoulis 2008). As a result, one of the main challenges in designing food traceability systems—and ensuring smallholder participation—is the development of fair, adequate, and broad food safety standards. Some studies have found that the introduction of safety standards associated with traceability requirements may lead smallholder farmers to switch to products with fewer transaction costs. It has also been argued that stringent safety standards introduced in Kenya’s fresh green bean industry were responsible for smallholders’ decision to switch to processed green beans (Narrod et al. 2008).8
An additional issue is data standardization. Although traceability implies an end-to-end process in the supply chain, only a few links in supply chains actually use software for traceability. Many organizations exchange data manually (Senneset, Forås, and Fremme 2007), especially smaller-scale operations, which tend to record traceability data on paper. Data standardization is vital for end-to-end traceability. There are multiple, globally recognized standards but no standard nomenclature to describe how the data should look or be organized, and software applications vary. Many parts of the food supply chain do not use standardized formats for data. The variety of traceability software in use makes data integration difficult (Bechini et al. 2005). A unified approach to traceability across supply chains would promote rapid and seamless traceability, including web-based, open, and interoperable standards for end-to-end tracking systems.
Public-sector interventions in food safety view it as a public good. Regulatory (mandatory) or nonregulatory (voluntary) public interventions are designed to provide consumers with basic food safety and provide information about the nature of the food. Public-sector interventions usually take the form of product or process standards but also comprise analytical procedures, inspection and certification systems, and the provision of public information. Food safety standards cover a wide range of parameters, including harmful substances in food (additives, pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, and other contaminants) and residues in animal feed. Process standards, establishing how food is produced, prepared, treated, and sold, include standards for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), food hygiene, labeling, packaging, and requirements on traceability.
In recent years, stricter public standards and regulations for food safety have been accompanied by a growing set of standards developed by the private sector. Private food safety standards, frequently characterized as surpassing requirements imposed through public standards, have emerged as a strategy to assure consumers that products meet a high level of regulatory compliance.
For example, private standards for particular attributes of food products might be higher and therefore perceived as more stringent or more extensive than public standards. Some private voluntary standards incorporate requirements related to traceability. Examples include standards dealing with social and environmental goals (fair trade, sustainably harvested products), as well as geographical indications and certification marks, which are generally applied to differentiate products (often as part of a marketing, branding strategy, or sustainable development strategy). These standards are not discussed in detail here.
Domestic and International Standards
Although food safety standards may be set nationally, World Trade Organization agreements on technical bar-riers to trade for testing, inspection and certification, and sanitary and phytosanitary matters form an international framework of agreements to prevent misuse of standards as barriers to trade. Private food safety standards do not fall under harmonized World Trade Organization guidelines. Their legitimacy and transparency are the subject of intense debate owing to their proliferation, prescriptive nature, potential to undermine public food safety, and potential economic development impacts, particularly for small-scale producers in developing countries. Many of the difficulties that small-scale producers reportedly encounter in applying private food safety standards relate to traceability, which is an area in which private food safety standards exceed Codex recommendations (CAC 2010).
As mentioned, traceability is mandated by law in the EU and Japan (for specific commodities). Until recently, extensive traceability was stipulated in the United States by the private sector for reasons including improved supply chain management, differentiation of products in the market, and product recall (Golan et al. 2003). With the passage of food safety regulations HR2749 and S.510, the United States has strengthened record keeping and traceability requirements.
The participation of developing countries in setting standards and assistance from developed countries in implementing them is particularly important. Traceability systems are by and large unidirectional, and exporting countries must accommodate different systems for verification and control from major importing countries. This situation increases the administrative burden and costs of compliance (CAC 2009). Table 12.3 lists examples of food traceability requirements related to food safety and/or security. (Click here for Table 12.3. Note: Use the zoom function for closer detail.)
As discussed, data standardization is vital for end-to-end traceability. A key player in data standardization and open systems for product traceability is GS1, a global nonprofit organization with more than one million member organizations in 108 countries. The GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and Global Location Number (GLN) are assigned to identify the product and location. The GTIN has two components—a product identification code and a company prefix, assigned by GS1. GLNs usually are assigned to a company, which then assigns a unique GLN for each of its facilities. A GLN is typically associated with GPS coordinates for the facility or plant. RFID applications use the serialized GTIN standard, sGTIN, developed by EPCglobal. The United Nations Standard Product and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a global classification system for information on products and services, including food products. Access to UNSPSC is free and included as a classification option in ERP systems such as SAP and Oracle.(Click here for Figure 12.7)
INNOVATIVE PRACTICE SUMMARY
Mango Traceability System Links Malian Smallholders and Exporters to Global Consumers
A produce traceability initiative is helping mango growers and exporters in Mali enhance
traceability and comply with GlobalG.A.P. standards, connecting smallholder trade to global markets. Previously, Malian mango growers relied on importers in global markets who did not bear the risk associated with transporting perishable produce, and the market system had not yet earned a reputation for high-quality produce in export markets. The partners in the initiative included Manobi (http://www.manobi.net/worldwide/, the mobile data services operator), Fruiléma (http://www.fruilema.com/, an association of fruit and vegetable producers and exporters in Mali), and IICD (http://www.iicd.org/, a nonprofit that specializes in ICT for development).
The partners developed the Fresh Food Trace web platform (figure 12.7), which automates and visualizes data for tracking mango production, conditioning, transport, and export (IICD 2008). Growers log traceability data and product information on mangoes on mobile devices at every step (image 12.1), thereby offering complete traceability to end markets. Importers, retailers, and customers are willing to pay US$ 0.09 more per pound for individual farm sourcing and compliance with food safety standards (Annerose 2010). The traceability system also serves to enhance the market’s reputation for supplying safe and traceable Malian mangoes sourced directly from smallholders.
|Source: Annerose 2010.|
Trends and Issues
Systems for tracking products through supply chains range from paper-based records maintained by producers, processors, and suppliers to sophisticated ICT-based solutions. In addition to supporting product traceability, ICTs may also support data capture, recording, storage, and sharing of traceability attributes on processing, genetics, inputs, disease/pest tracking, and measurement of environmental variables. Table 12.4 describes some aspects of how traceability is used in agricultural and agrifood systems.
The costs associated with putting traceability systems into place are seen as barriers even among established actors and appear even more daunting to small-scale producers from less developed countries. Paper is still used as a cheaper option for traceability, although it limits the ability to record data accurately, store it, and query it to identify and trace products. Digital databases for traceability are seen as more expensive to implement, operate, and maintain, requiring investments in hardware and software, skilled human resources, training, and certification.
RFID tags are still relatively expensive for widespread adoption in the supply chain compared with the much cheaper and more widely available barcodes (Sarma 2004). Tags priced at less than US$ 0.01 apiece could offer lower-cost mass-market options for the technology. Commercialization of advances such as those driven by nanotechnology may also push prices down by enabling RFID tags to be printed on paper or labels (Harrop 2008). RFID in its current form is a microchip and could prove cheaper (and easier to use) in nano form. The following sections review the technologies that may be used in a variety of contexts in developing countries, depending on the associated costs and business models employed.
Document-Based Solutions (Paper/Electronic Documents)
Smaller organizations and producers constrained for resources typically use pen and paper to record, store, and communicate data to partners in the supply chain. Paper invoices, purchase orders, and bills of lading, as well as electronic file formats (MS Word, PDFs, or others), may be used to store alphanumeric codes and other data on product lot number, harvest date, product receipt/shipping date, quantity, or ingredients. Document-based systems, whether physical or electronic, store data in an unstructured form. Searching through paper records is done by physically browsing through papers that are at best categorized and filed in shelving space. Searching through electronic documents requires users to locate the document and then perform full text or metadata searches within it.
Because document-based systems take time and effort to query, they increase the time needed to locate the precise source, location, or details of a suspected contaminated product. Data recorded on paper cannot be exchanged easily among partners in the food supply chain. They also have drawbacks related to illegible handwriting and human transposition errors when data are transferred from manual to database systems. Data may be inaccurate and quite difficult to verify through cross-checking. (Click here for Table 12.4).
Structured Database Solutions
Some organizations capture and store traceability data in their management information systems and other databases, such as ERP systems for inventory control, warehouse management, accounting, and asset management. They may also rely on homegrown custom solutions and legacy information systems. The advantage of capturing product traceability data in structured database systems is the ability to rapidly and precisely query data elements to isolate the source and location of products that may be contaminated. ERP systems such as SAP can read standardized data from barcodes and RFIDs, including GTINs and GLNs.
Electronic data interchange systems allow vendors and business partners to exchange data such as GTINs and GLNs. Businesses may also exchange information via ebXML (extensible markup language), which defines the structure of data and security for the transfer. Database solutions such as ERPs may be supplemented by web-based portals for data input and data exchange with business partners in the supply chain. In legacy systems and custom solutions, data used to identify products may not follow traceability data standards such as product lot number. Multiple data standards cause errors and confusion and impede accurate product tracing.
Emerging trends in ICT, such as the use of cloud computing and SaaS (software as a service) solutions, have reduced the cost of owning ERP and database management solutions to capture, record, store, and share tra-ceability data.
Conventional methods of traceability through a chain of custody involve the use of barcodes and labels. Bar-codes are commonly and recognizably used for inventory control management and global logistics of people and goods, such as air travel tickets or parcel shipping and delivery.
Barcodes represent data to uniquely identify a product. Barcodes can be scanned by an electronic reader to identify and interpret key data elements stored in the barcode. The data can be used to trace the product forward and backward through the supply chain.
Barcode solutions require a printing component to print barcodes on labels or products and a scanning technology to read barcoded information. Barcode labels may also contain some information below the barcode to allow for human verification and cross-checking of data. Storage of data elements on a barcode depend on the type of barcode technology used. The GTIN uses a 14-digit barcode with information about companies, products, and product attributes worldwide, which can be read upstream and downstream through a supply chain.
An even more precise system of barcode traceability is reduced space symbology. This system uses 14-digit GTIN barcodes on individual items, boxes, and pallets, which can all be linked by product and producer or dis-tributor codes, allowing trace-back from the level of an individual item (Golan, Krisoff, and Kuchler 2004).
The Produce Traceability Initiative requires produce tracking via barcoded case labels with traceability information such as the GTIN and lot/batch number. The European Article Numbering–Uniform Code Council standard has a set of 62 product attributes for barcodes to track input, production, and inventory along the supply chain, permitting open real-time updates of information to all systems in the network when producers enter new information in the system.
RFIDs offer promising capabilities for traceability in the developing and the developed world and are seen as an alternative to older barcode systems. Passive RFID tags use an initial signal from an RFID reader to scavenge power and store data on an event at a specific point in time. Passive RFID tags do not use a power source and are less expensive than active RFID tags. Grain-sized RFID tags or transponders incorporated as particles or attached as labels to food products can identify the food item and become connected to the Internet as uniquely identified nodes.
Products tagged with RFID may also be fed with data though an interface with wireless sensor networks. Sen-sors, also called motes, may transmit data on motion, temperature, spoilage, density, light, and other environ-mental variables sliced by time to the RFID tag (“Organic RFID to Cut Waste on Produce,” RFID News, 2009). GPS, low Earth orbit satellites (Bacheldor (2009), and motion sensors may interface with RFID tags to communicate variables on location and position coordinates (latitude/longitude). RFID readers to read data from RFID tags may be integrated as an application on a mobile device. Thus an “ecosystem”9 built by combining RFIDs, wireless sensor networks, GPS, mobile devices, and applications can make it possible to manage traceability across the supply chain. Product traceability recorded through such an ecosystem-based solution may range from data on logistics and postharvest practices surrounding the trees of the small-scale producer right up to the table of the end consumer (Ampatzidis et al. 2007). Lower costs per device, nanotechnology advances that permit greater storage and smaller size, increased ruggedness in extreme temperatures and moisture, and rapid growth in wireless cellular network and device availability have led smaller producers in developing countries to use RFIDs, GPS, GIS, wireless sensor networks, and mobile phones to implement traceability systems, paving the way for connectivity to global markets.
RFIDs have been used for unique animal identification, storage of data on breeding history, animal health, disease tracking, animal movement, and nutrient and yield management. RFID-tagged animals are tracked from birth through slaughter to check and monitor disease, to meet the needs of global markets for safe meat, and to enable product recall.
The advantage of electronic traceability systems based on RFID is their staggering capacity to store data on product attributes. Barcodes permit only limited data storage. Unlike barcode systems, which are read-only, RFID systems possess read/write capability. Barcodes require the item and the scanner to be in the direct line of sight, and items must be physically moved to collect data on the product, whereas data are automatically collected via RFID without line of sight (Cronin 2008; Nambiar 2009; Sarma 2004; Stokes 2010).
The disadvantages of RFID solutions include their cost, complexity, and environmental sustainability (IFT 2009). RFID signals are affected by environmental conditions such as moisture, which absorbs electromagnetic waves; metal packaging, which scatters waves; and physical damage to the chipset in harsh conditions. Studies of RFID applications summarized in Nambiar (2009) identify challenges such as a lack of expertise, resistance to change, lack of systems integration (Attaran 2009), inconsistent information, lack of supporting tools for implementation (Battini et al. 2009), and integration difficulties as a result of the proliferation of RFID readers (Floerkemeier and Fleisch 2008). In practice, the implementation of RFID technologies is hampered by problems with tag detection, tag coverage, and reader collision (Carbunar et al. 2009). Other technological hurdles include protecting the privacy and security of data stored on the RFID tag from unauthorized access and tampering (Langheinrich et al. 2009).
Nano Solutions for Traceability and Precision Farming
Transformative technologies such as nano solutions are creating new pathways for food security and precision agriculture. “Nanotechnology” is “the ability to engineer new attributes through controlling features at a very small scale—at or around the scale of a nanometer. One nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about 1/80,000 the width of human hair.”10 Nano solutions can help food security by decreasing input costs, increasing yields, and decreasing postharvest loss.
In the field of traceability, nano solutions enable food safety and food preservation. Nano materials may be used in smart packaging and in food handling to detect pathogens, gases, spoilage, and changing temperature and moisture. Traceability requirements for food safety may present a lower-risk, higher-benefit area for the application of nano solutions. (Froggett 2009, 2010). Current technologies to detect pathogens in food require considerable time, money, and effort. Nano solutions can detect contamination in real time. Azonano, an online journal of nanotechnology, reported in 2005 that researchers at Kraft Foods, Rutgers University, and the University of Connecticut were developing a nano solution called an “electronic tongue.” (“Food Packaging Using Nanotechnology Methods,” Azonano, 2005). An array of embedded nanosensors in the electronic tongue detect the presence of pathogens in packaged food and change the color of the tongue to signal spoilage to consumers. The EU Good Food Project has developed a portable nanosensor to detect chemicals, pathogens, and toxins in food at the farm and slaughterhouse and during transport, processing, and packaging. Nanotechnologies are also enabling the production of cheaper and more efficient nanoscale RFIDs for tracking and monitoring food through the supply chain for traceability (Joseph and Morrison 2006).
Nano solutions can help increase farm sustainability while decreasing environmental impact. Nanoscale sensors in fields enable targeted minimal application of nutrients, water, and/or pesticides (Froggett 2009). Encapsulation and controlled-release methods are used to deliver doses of pesticide and herbicide. Particle farming yields nanoparticles for industrial use by growing plants in specific types of soil (one example is the harvesting of gold particles from alfalfa plants grown in gold-rich soil). Nano solutions such as NanoCeram (2 nanometer diameter aluminum oxide nanofibers developed by Argonide in the United States) filter viruses, bacteria, and protozoan cysts from groundwater. Altairnano is working on Nanocheck (which contains lanthanum nanoparticles) to absorb phosphates from aqueous environments such as fish ponds. Research at the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology shows that nanoscale iron oxide particles are effective at binding with and removing arsenic from groundwater (Joseph and Morrison 2006). An emerging trend in agriculture and food security is the convergence of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science, referred to by the United States government as “NBIC.”
The potential impact of nano solutions on smallholder farmers and agricultural producers is beyond the scope of this module but merits research and discussion. Investments in nano research and approaches to regulation continue in OECD countries such as Australia, Canada, EU member countries, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the United States, as well as non-OECD countries such as Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa. Figure 12.8 depicts the use and convergence of information, communication, electronics, and nanotechnologies to enable information to flow from farmers to markets.
While conventional methods of traceability work for labeling and tagging food products that are not genetically modified or engineered, DNA traceability offers a more precise form of traceability for animals and animal byproducts derived through biotechnology. DNA traceability works on the principle that each animal is genetically unique and thus byproducts of the animal can be traced to its source by identifying its DNA (Loftus 2005).
Nuclear Techniques for Traceability
A joint research project of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency (Cannavan n.d.) seeks to establish analytical techniques to determine the provenance of food by assessing its isotopic and elemental fingerprints.11 These techniques are also used to identify the geographical origin of food and to identify sources of contamination.
|Source: Tina George Karippacheril.|
INNOVATIVE PRACTICE SUMMARY
ShellCatch in Chile Guarantees Origin of the Catch from Artisanal Fishers and Divers
In Chile, ShellCatch (http://www.shellcatch.com/english/index.htm) allows buyers to pinpoint the origin of shellfish and the condition of catchment areas in the Tubul, Arauco Gulf, and Bio-Bio regions. ShellCatch shifts the responsibility for daily monitoring of catch origin, including detection of extraction from legal catchment areas, from processing plants to harvesters—that is, artisanal fishers and divers. GPS-equipped fishing boats transmit data on origin of catch to a Transdata center in Santiago to monitor fishing from legal fishing areas. When the catch is brought to port, a ticketing system cross-checks the origin of the catch via GPS data transmitted from the boats, then weighs, certifies, and labels bags of catch with traceability data in a barcode label. After ticketing, the certified catch is sent to processing plants and on to domestic and international markets for consumption. Figure 12.9 illustrates this process. (Click here for Figure 12.9).
The authors gratefully acknowledge helpful comments and guidance received from colleagues Tuukka Castren, Aparajita Goyal, Steven Jaffee, Tim Kelly, Eija Pehu, and Madhavi Pillai of the World Bank, Andrew Baird of RTI, Steve Froggett of Froggett & Associates, Guillaume Gruere of IFPRI, and Lucy Scott Morales of EEI Communications.
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- 1 Both regulatory (mandatory) and nonregulatory (voluntary).
- 2 Established in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for “food code” or “food book”) is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and recommendations on food, food production, and food safety.
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- 4 See “Objectives of Food Traceability Systems” in the next section for a definition of internal traceability.
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- 7 The Marine Stewardship Council develops standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability.
- 8 More recent work has found mixed effects on stricter food safety and traceability requirements in this industry (Jaffee, Henson,and Diaz Rios, forthcoming).
- 9 Also described as the “Internet of things” (ITU 2005).
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