Farm to fork traceability for the fruit sector

Related tags Agriculture

E-Fruitrace, a technology initiative funded under the EU's fifth
framework programme, has validated a Europe-wide Internet-based
solution for food producers.

Aimed at the fruit sector, which represents around 7.3 per cent of Europe's final agricultural production, the €1.5 million E-Fruitrace IST project is designed to overcome the key problem facing the implementation of Europe-wide traceability: the incompatibility of different platforms used by different actors in different countries.

In less than a month new EU food hygiene regulations will come into effect, forcing farmers, processors and distributors to definitively implement farm to fork traceability.

"From 1 January 2005 traceability will cease to be an added-value element in the agricultural industry and will become obligatory because of the introduction of the new EU legislation,"​ said Pedro de la Peña, technical manager of E-Fruitrace at Agromare in Spain.

"All of the actors involved in the agri-food sector therefore need comprehensive and compatible solutions to allow them to track produce."

Rather than design a whole new system, the E-Fruitrace initiative created Internet-based tools designed to unify a variety of traceability systems that have been used by agricultural cooperatives, processors and distributors in different member states.

"The project resulted in a de facto standard for fruit traceability,"​ said De la Peña.

Trials with end-user cooperatives in Spain, Italy and France were carried out last year, with end results suggesting that the system facilitates efficient and cost-effective farm to fork tracking of produce. Because E-Fruitrace​ can be used in combination with existing traceability solutions, the investment required on the part of users is relatively small compared to implementing new tracking systems.

In addition, it allows information to be exchanged quickly and easily up and down the food distribution chain, something that was received very positively by end users in the trials.

"With the system comprehensive data covering everything from where the fruit was grown, what fertilisers were used, where it was stored and what trucks transported it can be easily accessed and distributed between different actors,"​ said De la Peña.

Such comprehensive information exchange is necessary if traceability is to fulfil its goal of ensuring food safety while letting consumers know precisely what they are eating and assuaging their concerns surrounding such issues as intensive farming techniques, the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and transgenic produce.

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