Food safety is a growing demand from an increasingly informed consumer and a need that has become more urgent with the relentless international trade expansion.
Check out the first part of this series, where we discussed at length the importance of Food Safety and why it is the need of the hour. With the wave of health problems unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic, food brands’ challenge is to guarantee food safety and good practices in their supply chain, and the only way to do so is through food traceability.
Read on to learn all you should know about food traceability and why it is the only way to ensure food safety in today’s world.
How many times have you stopped to read the information on a product label? A few years ago, only a handful of people did, particularly those with medical conditions that prevent them from consuming certain ingredients or those who follow a particular diet and for whom this habit represents a necessity.
The reality is that until recently, we were not used to doing it. Knowing the content of a product seemed unnecessary, being only the price and the expiry date, the availability, the reputation of a brand, and the appearance (packaging) that made us choose a product; however, this is no longer enough.
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What changed to make consumers start to care about food safety?
- Outbreaks and Food-borne illnesses:
In the past, high-profile incidents related to health risks in food exposed a deep-rooted distrust in our global supply chain. With disruptive events such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, the consumer is now more than ever inclined to choose products that can guarantee the highest food quality and food safety levels.
- The link between food and health
Since the first known cases of diseases like atherosclerotic heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer links to poor nutrition, the global consumer has sought, little by little, to implement new practices in their diet. They are choosing healthier, fresh, and unprocessed products as a complement to an overall healthier lifestyle.
- Environmental disturbances
With the global economy consuming environmental resources at unsustainable levels, sustainability has taken the front seat on the global priority agenda (UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)). A situation to which consumers have responded with new behaviors and practices that lead them to choose eco-labeled products.
- Social awareness:
Social and environmental awareness are inevitably linked. The green light that points to reducing the collective impact on the environment does the same with managing good practices around the agents involved in any production chain. Concepts such as “Fair Trade” and “ethically produced” are the standards that motivate today’s consumers.
Sixty-six percent of global respondents say they are willing to pay more for sustainable goods, up from 55% in 2014 (and 50% in 2013).1
But “safe and sustainable” products really are? Can we trust that all of the brands who claim to operate with the best practices in their supply chain do so? Thanks to today’s advancing technology, we can, and the only way to ensure it is through food traceability.
What is Food Traceability?
It is defined as the process that follows a food product’s movement and its ingredients through all steps in the supply chain, both backward and forward.
It is a level of sophistication in recording every aspect of the life cycle of food – from the most fundamental elements involved like producing a crop, the soil that nourishes it, the water that irrigates it, particular climatic conditions, and more.
It opens the door to a completely transparent and secure food supply chain, with both a preventive and predictive value by identifying potential vulnerabilities in food while offering analytics to modify practices within the industry to avoid identified risks.
Why should we implement Food Traceability?
Food Traceability for safety: All the way from farm to plate, the food products and ingredients might encounter different challenges, such as microbial growth, incorrect usage of chemical preservatives and pesticides. Traceability mechanisms provide a way to precisely track what pesticides and preservatives were used, from the time the seed is sown until it ends up on your plate.
Food Traceability for transparency: Having an up-to-date record throughout the production chain, where no agent can remain anonymous, allows the entire process to be transparent and provides a single source of truth.
Food Traceability for accountability: No matter how strict food safety regulations and standards are, it is very likely that at some point, regulatory bodies will find it difficult to monitor every ingredient that ends up on our plate. Many of the recent food fraud cases thrive precisely for this reason. Without tracking every component all the way through, it is nearly impossible to detect possible contamination in any form.
Food Traceability for sustainability: Having complete access to every point in the supply chain allows identifying growth opportunities and improving industry practices. New opportunities arise to implement processes with little impact on the environment and reduce waste and unnecessary expenses.
Who can benefit from food traceability?
In addition to health authorities, the primary beneficiaries of food traceability are:
- Manufacturers: Implementing food traceability helps businesses effectively respond to potential health emergencies, reduces their liability, and increases consumer confidence in their brand. Besides, it can minimize wastage operating costs and increase overall productivity.
- Brands: Taking consumers’ concerns into account and offering them the opportunity to verify that a product is safe, of high quality, and deliver on its promise increases their trust. The recent EIT Food Trust Report, which surveyed almost 20,000 consumers across 18 European countries, mention:“Consumers voiced an increased demand for supply chain transparency from farm to fork, natural products and better, more informative labeling.”
- Consumers: Food traceability provides real-time information about products, offering the possibility of making informed and intelligent decisions while minimizing the likelihood of purchasing fraudulent products that may put their health at risk.
- Partners: A system that transmits accurate and complete product information provides insights to leverage data for decision-making.
Can Food Traceability be achieved through blockchain technology?
Yes. In searching for solutions to global food safety, different government agencies and corporations have found food traceability the best ally. Blockchain seems to be the most promising technology to achieve food safety and traceability based on emerging trends.
Its ability to support, streamline, and distribute information securely is the top reason every industry embraces it widely. The food industry is the new addition, particularly agriculture Blockchain and Agriculture:
What is blockchain’s application in agriculture? Food traceability through blockchain technology responds to the urgent need to connect all the agents involved in a supply chain while recording the entire life cycle of a product until it reaches your plate.
We are at a time when it’s necessary and urgent to use new technologies to achieve the highest standards in food safety and food quality and achieve a resilient, agile, and secure supply chain that will benefit and strengthen all those involved.
The emerging wave of startups engaged in food traceability through blockchain technology understands that agriculture’s full potential can only be achieved through the widespread adoption of technology. And that to be truly effective, it must consider all stakeholders involved, large and small, and should allow an enabling space for safe, transparent, and sustainable development.