Food Authentification - Traceability by process tracking and how to increase consumer confidence

eFOOD-Lab_International_02_2014

Traceability by process tracking and how to increase consumer confidence 2/14 eFOOD-Lab international 15 The GS1 Electronic Product Code (EPC) for individual identification Our Author: Robert Newman, University of Wolverhampton The horsemeat scandal of 2013 was one of the highest profile incidents of food crime in recent years. It also demonstrated two other items of interest. Firstly, that reputable food producers were unable to verify for certain the provenance of their ingredients and secondly, that traceability using current systems is a slow process. These two factors together allowed the criminals the opportunity to carry out their fraud and its detection was left to the chance that the Food Standards Authority of Ireland decided to carry out a targeted study of the DNA in meat products. Subsequent to the discovery that horsemeat had been fraudulently sold as beef, it took a further two months to discover the scale of the fraud (or frauds) and at least some of the perpetrators. In the meantime, the damage to public confidence in food products in general and meat products in particular was considerable. The lessons of the horsemeat incident provide in some ways a triumph for the techniques of DNA analysis which allowed the presence of horsemeat to be detected and the ‘one forward, one back’ system of traceability introduced by Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, section 18 (http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/ EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:32002R0178), which requires food and feed business operators to be able to identify any suppliers of food related materials and also to identify those that they have supplied and to make that information available to the ‘competent authority’ on demand. In other ways, it demonstrates the fragility and susceptibility to fraud of that same system. The documents required to be kept are easily forged and the food business receiving them has no way of certifying their accuracy at the time of receipt. Since the companies further up the supply chain are obligated only to release information only to the ‘competent authorities’, it is not possible for the reputable company to validate the authenticity of that documentation except by trust of that supplier. Further, there is no way for the supplier to demonstrate that they are trustworthy either to those companies that they supply or the wider public. Given that food is central to anyone’s life, it is strange that so little care seems to be taken over security and traceability of the food supply chains. The ‘one forward, one back’ legislation was hailed as a great step forward in food quality assurance, yet it falls well short of the traceability found in other industries on which people’s lives may depend. For instance, in the automotive and aerospace industries, manufacturers will take great care to ensure control and traceability over their supply chains, from end to end – simply because the consequences of substandard products can be fatal. However, such control depends on careful qualification and monitoring of suppliers and is expensive. These are high value manufacturing operations, which provide sufficient margin for this type of measure whereas food is not. The larger food producers do often keep tight control over their supply chains. At the other end of the market is an artisan sector, mainly smaller producers, who deal exclusively with local suppliers. In the middle often there is practice based on the cultural roots of the food industry the securing of products in the market, so many producers will go to the market frequently and source from different suppliers according to price and availability. Food Authentificati on


eFOOD-Lab_International_02_2014
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