Along with the increase in consumer awareness, the desire, both on the part of producers and customers, for full-value, high-quality goods to reach the market is strengthening. The successful implementation of this goal is supported by the traceability system, also known as supply chain traceability. What events contributed to the design of traceability, what exactly is meant by this concept and how is traceability of the supply chain presented from behind the scenes?
Catalyst of change
Traceability systems constitute a response to the distrust of consumers regarding the quality of food products available on the market, resulting from scandals in the food industry which occurred in recent decades. An example of a similar crisis is the epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) a disease commonly known as mad cow disease, which was spreading in Western Europe in the early 1990s.
What is traceability, i.e. a food traceability system?
Traceability is a system that allows accurate identification, control or tracking of a product and its individual components at all stages of production and distribution. It is a comprehensive, transparent database, which can be described as a kind of map containing key information about the goods and elements used in the production process. The collected data concerns, among others, the origin, movement and the history of processing or storage of goods.
Main goals of traceability
The traceability instrument guarantees quick, trouble-free access to information, thanks to which it allows to easily trace the path that a given product has taken before it reached the store shelves. In case of a crisis, e.g. detecting potentially harmful substances, the traceability system makes it easier to withdraw a product or its individual batches from stores, as well as to reach the source of the threat – drawing a line to connect the dots. Other goals of using the instrument, and at the same time the benefits of its implementation, include:
- optimization of logistics operations,
- more effective risk management,
- exercising better control over stock and production.
Under the watchful eye of the EU
The traceability system is considered to be an important element of modern food production in the EU, which is confirmed by the applicable legal requirements, in particular Regulation (EC) 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council containing the general principles and requirements of food law. In the context of traceability, the second chapter of the regulation is particularly important, from which it can be concluded, among others, that food processing companies are obliged to implement a system enabling monitoring the origin of a product.
Traceability in practice
In practice, implementing a traceability system usually means placing labels on the packaging of individual products and its components, which can be easily scanned later, if necessary. For cattle, identification marks such as ear tags are used. Each animal must be given an identification mark before it leaves the farm.
Traceability ensures quality of products and the good of the environment
The traceability system is an important element of the process thanks to which high-quality products are delivered to consumers. At the same time, the instrument is fully aligned with the Farm to Fork strategy, which is both consumer and planet oriented, and is an essential, integral part of the strategy. The activities undertaken within the Farm to Fork strategy build and promote a sustainable EU food system, thus bringing the important goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050.
EU regulations on the use of traceability systems in the food chain also apply to the agricultural sector, including meat products. Traceability is an important part of the process that finally delivers a full-value product, which European beef undoubtedly is, in line with high EU quality standards. It should be mentioned that although quality is undoubtedly the flagship attribute of European beef, when talking about the advantages of meat from the EU, we should not forget about its taste.
Different cultures and cuisines, one proven ingredient
Many of the EU’s foreign trading partners, including Japan and Hong Kong, have experienced how good European beef produced in high quality standards is. High-quality beef produced in the EU is a product that works perfectly as an ingredient in dishes originating from various cultures and traditions, including Asian one. Gyūdon, beef dim sum, or maybe rāmen? European beef will give a unique taste and aroma to all oriental cuisine specialties!
- Bezat, Agnieszka and Sebastian Jarzębowski. Traceability w łańcuchu dostaw przetwórstwa spożywczego (Traceability in the food processing supply chain). Media Logistyka, January 2013.
- Biszto-Szczęsny, Sylwia. Identyfikowalność w łańcuchu żywnościowym – wymagania prawne i praktyka (Traceability in the food chain – legal requirements and practice). Bezpieczeństwo żywności w praktyce 2019, no. 10 September 2019.
- Olsen, Peter and Melania Borit. How to define traceability. Trends in Food Science & Technology. 29(2):142-150.
- United Nations Global Compact Office. A Guide To Traceability. A Practical Approach o Advance sustainability in Global Supply Chains. Two United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, USA.