The Importance of Food Traceability
Food manufacturing might seem like a simple operation — farmers make food, it’s distributed to stores around the country, and we buy it and cook it. However, the process by which we get our food is a lot more complicated than many give it credit for being. The food system is an interconnected web of tasks and activities spun together into a process that brings together factors from food production and economics to regulation, technology, and transportation. It is because this process is complicated that it calls for a system to keep it in order. That’s where food traceability comes in. Being able to trace food of all variety — from meats and dairy to honey and wheat — is monumental for business to secure their food and for consumers to know the origins of what they put in their mouths.
What is Food Tracebility?
Food tracks a product from its origins (production) through its processing and then to its distribution. These operations secure a food’s whereabouts in order to make sure they are living up to the required food standards. Trade and economic incentives must be held to the correct requirements, and consumers should trust that the food they buy can be traced back to the exact location where it was manufactured or grown.
How it Works in Practice
When a product is sold, take eggs, for example, there is more than just a farmer taking eggs from chickens and selling them to your local grocery store. First, contracts between local farmers and larger subsidiaries are commonplace. This is where the tracking begins. Amount of feed for the chickens, any medicine, etc., are documented, tracking how much the farmer is given in order to compare his results. Farmers do the work while the larger company pays for the animals, food, and medicine needed. The farmer is then compensated based on the results — better or more eggs compared to other farmers, for example, will get a single farmer a bonus or a larger piece of the pie.
From there, the farmer harvests the product in need. Information such as which chicken house an
egg came from and on what day is recorded. Everything from the medicine the chicken is given to the day the egg was laid is documented. Technology like Eggfusion’s is making it so that now even every egg has a laser date printed on it individually so that peak freshness is met. It’s then sent to packers who clean the product if necessary, run checks on it, and then send it to distributors. In cases like seafood, food tracing helps in seafood sustainability in terms of keeping limits on the number of certain species of fish that fishers can catch. Everything from the type of fish caught to the area of the ocean they caught it is tracked in order to create a sustainable environment and prevent species extinction.
What This Means for Everyone
Companies are putting millions of dollars a year into food traceability. Not only does it help them keep track of their goods, but it protects them in the case of an outbreak. Knowing where tainted food comes from can save the lives of consumers and the money of producers. Food traceability allows consumers to know the products they buy are aligned with food safety compliance standards and keeps companies accountable for the food they produce. It also protects retailers by allowing them to determine the right products for their clientele in the cases like organic vs. nonorganic.
Food traceability is more important than ever since our food comes from all around the world. With this system in place, companies can be held accountable for the food they produce. Consumers also have the right to know where their food comes from, and with food traceability, they’ll be able to have that information.