From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
The authors of a new report on food traceability say on-farm traceability, like quality, should be viewed as a core value and standard operating practice, not as an added cost of doing business.
Canadian traceability expert Brian Sterling and value chain leader Martin Gooch teamed up on the report, Traceability is Free: Competitive Advantage of Food Traceability to Value Chain Management.
The authors argue that all parts of the agri-food value chain — beginning with farmers — need to work together to guard against food-related scandals such as the horse meat crisis in Europe, which are a major blow to consumer confidence.
They say the public’s growing concerns about foodborne illness, and the industry’s challenge of managing an increasingly complex food chain, have created demand for more effective and efficient information management. This need exists all the way from input suppliers and farms, to restaurants and food retailers.
According to the authors, governments also have a role in this process by supporting the agri-food sector’s drive towards core-value traceability. Farmers, processors and manufacturers should all be encouraged to approach effective food traceability “as an outcome of a disciplined, professionally managed approach to data gathering, retention, analysis and collaboration, performed simultaneously at all points along the value chain,” they say. “Traceability should not be viewed as an expense.”
That requires a positive attitude towards traceability, they say – “it’s not just for emergencies.” Sterling and Gooch liken it to the “quality is free” notion that drove improvements in the automotive and aerospace industries, and suggest a similar approach, that is, “traceability is free” — become the mindset in the agri-food sector, too.
The key though, is co-operation throughout the sector. Farmers can produce the best commodities, but without effective transportation, processing, manufacturing and retailing, their efforts are weakened.
“By working together, businesses unlock the value in chains in which they operate,” says Sterling. “And in so doing, traceability becomes part of an overall and considerably more effective management system.”