A COOL idea?

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supply chain, Food, Food safety

Global Technology Resources (GTR) has launched a new system
designed to detect, track and manage food safety threats across the
supply chain. Combining patented web-based global positioning
system (GPS) technology with radio frequency identification (RFID),
the company claims that the system is the first solution of its
kind to harness this technology to provide early detection of
disease, foodborne pathogens and contamination.

GTR says that the system offers real-time information and tracking of food assets globally for immediate identification and response. The firm also claims that the product can help companies meet the requirements of the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002 and the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Act.

"To protect consumers' health, it is vitally important to know where particular shipments of meats, vegetables and other products originated and where they've been,"​ said Paul Cheek, president of Global Technology Resources. "Our system provides a key line of defence in the event of a crisis. If contamination does occur, whether it is intentional or unintentional, we can pinpoint where contaminants entered the supply chain and isolate the problem."

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that there are approximately 60,000 documented incidents of contaminated food in the US each year. Less than one per cent of the food imported into the US undergoes any type of inspection - leaving what many call an open door to terrorists. Additionally, there is no existing national emergency technical management system for animal health related diseases.

The GTR system tracks food from the point of origin throughout the production and distribution channel, ending with the consumer's table. The system catalogues products at various points along the supply chain, including farm, ranch, processing plants, transport vehicles, storage facilities, supermarkets and restaurants. If an incident of contamination is reported in the supply chain, information on the origin and destination of dangerous product is automatically located.

GTR believes that the product could therefore make a real difference. During Europe's Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, for example, the system would have allowed satellite technology to be matched with meteorological data from GPS - wind patterns in the event of an airborne pathogen could have been identified.

The issue of tracking the country of origin of certain produce is especially pertinent at the moment. A coalition of 165 US food manufacturers and associations sent a letter to President Bush this week arguing that a two-year delay of the mandatory country-of-origin labelling law is not supported by the overwhelming majority of US food manufacturers. The coalition, called Americans for Country of Origin Labeling (ACOL), is urging the President to oppose Congressional efforts to delay country-of-origin labelling.

In fact, the controversy surrounding country-of-origin labelling has been bubbling away for decades. For more than 70 years, goods imported into the United States have been required to be labelled with the product's country of origin so that the ultimate consumer will know where it was produced. But certain products such as fruit and vegetables were exempted from the original labelling law. ACOL argues that the COOL bill, which will amend this loophole, must be passed. Fruit and vegetable imports into the United States topped $1.7 billion in 1996.

But not every sector of the food processing industry is in sympathy with the coalition. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), for example, believes that the recent Congressional block is a big win for the US pork industry.

"While NPPC continues to oppose mandatory country-of-origin labelling, the two-year time out period should give all parties ample time to create a voluntary, market-driven framework,"​ said president Jon Caspers. "We must now work to resolve the many problems with mandatory country-of-origin labelling - its failure to raise hog prices long-term; exemptions for chicken and turkey products; a reduction in record US pork exports and less than 50 percent of pork products would be covered by country-of-origin labelling."

Global Technology Resources​ (GTR) is a US-based spatial technology company that specialises in the development and implementation of risk mitigation technology for global commercial business and government use. The company and its subsidiaries develop technology for use in the bioterrorism, food safety, and disease detection mitigation areas.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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