Global food businesses must work to one security standard for all food types if the threat of fraud and foodborne diseases is to be reduced, according to a major new report.
The report, conducted by the Global Food Traceability Centre (GFTC), which was set up by the Institute of Food Technologists in the US last year to combat food threats, highlighted a lack of unity as the major flaw in the global food chain.
“There are also no uniform requirements across different food sectors, supply chains or countries for [the] collection of critical tracking events and key data elements,” said the 55 global food industry experts who worked on the report.
Experts ranked the EU as the highest out of all other parts of the world for its global food traceability regulations and requirements.
Foodborne diseases and fraud
Despite its high ranking, more work had to be done to reduce cases of foodborne diseases and fraud, said the experts.
Better ways of combating UK food fraud cases are expected to be proposed in by Professor Chris Elliott’s forthcoming review into the handling of last year’s horsemeat scandal.
“Standardisation would provide regulators [with] the opportunity to resolve outbreak-related trace-back investigations with much greater efficiency and effectiveness than possible today,” said the experts.
When existing traceability standards were put into practice by businesses, they were specific to a particular food sector, such as meat or produce, they added.
However, differing standards and traceability practises were not efficient enough for a global industry that produced 6.76bn t of food a year for an estimated 7bn consumers, they said.
“Only a handful of organisations have evaluated traceability approaches that could be applicable across the food industry,” claimed the experts.
Minimum traceability standards
The minimum traceability standards global food businesses should be operating to was a one-step forward and a one-step back approach, such as in the EU, the experts recommended.
An electronic messaging and barcode tagging and tracking system was also recommended as the most common and reliable method of product traceability for a global industry.
Other recommendations included the need for food items, whether whole or processed, to be uniquely identifiable at any point in the food chain.
Every operator in the food chain should also have its own internal and external traceability practises, which should ensure a link between individual components and final products, said the experts.
“It’s imperative that traceability requirements and regulations are harmonised across the globe,” said Brian Sterling, md of the GFTC.
“Industry and regulators need to minimise the potential for misunderstanding and delays due to difficulties in understanding each country’s practices.”
Traceability regulations ranking according to the GFTC:
- EU countries – superior
- Japan – average
- Canada – average
- US – average
- Australia – average
- New Zealand – average
- Brasil – average
- China – poor
- Russia – unscored due to a lack of information
Meanwhile, Grant Foster, head of enterprise risk management at Aon, will discuss risk management in the supply chain at the Food Manufacture Group’s one-day Food safety conference.
The event, entitled, ‘Safe and legal food in a changing world’, aims to examine emerging food safety issues and the changing regulatory environment.
It will be held at the Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, Warwickshire, on October 15.
For information and to book a place, click here