Food Traceability is a Win-Win17th February 2023
Food travels far before it hits our tables. Traceability guarantees food safety in every mile of its journey because we can follow its movement.
When it comes to food production and distribution, people want to know “what’s behind the curtain.” Transparency gives consumers added protection against potentially harmful practices that result in less than healthy food choices. This transparency means shedding light on the fitness of the entire value chain so that consumers can make those informed, healthy food choices. The main message is that greater access to information forces the food industry to make changes that improve more than just the bottom line. In fact, this transparency takes care of consumers and food producers alike. For consumers, it’s all about food safety, and for food producers it helps mitigate costs in the event of a recall. An effective tool in achieving all of this is traceability.
Over the last 20 years, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the EU have drafted regulations about food safety and the necessity for rapid food tracking through the food system, or its ‘traceability.’ The most recent legislation was enacted in response to massive food recalls, like in the Peanut Corporation of America case where nine people died and hundreds were infected with salmonella poisoning.
But can we go beyond traceability as it stands today? Are current standards enough to make the transition in the food system? Our mission is to encourage the use of out-of-the-box initiatives that improve the system and also food producers to mind what they buy and how they process it so that everyone eats healthier food. Any benefits for the environment will only help ensure future generations eat accessible and high quality food.
What is Traceability?
Today, the nodes of the food supply chain are both complementary and mutually dependent, but that means food travels many miles before it hits our tables. Designations like ‘farm to fork’ and ‘farm to table’ are meant to suggest fewer miles and processors before the food hits our tables. However, what consumers know about the food system can be sketchy. If we’re to guarantee the safety of food and its ingredients in every mile of its journey, we have to be able to follow its movement. That’s what traceability means, and is the key for building consumer trust in the food supply, and in safeguarding food.
Walking the Talk
LoginEKO is leading by example. We recently enjoyed the result of our first yield, harvesting 6,000+ tons of crops that are 100% traceable in everything from soil composition, treatment, seeds, harvesting, and storage. Our care and attention to the growth chain means that those crops can be sold to organic buyers, and that we can provide any needed information about the history of that produce. It also means we stand by what we grow. Another added benefit is to remove current excuses for those who don’t follow our lead.
A Safer and Healthier Future
Since food safety is so important to us, here’s how we’re implementing traceability:
For materials that we use:
- We track all materials as closely as possible from the time of arrival to our warehouse to the point when they end up in their respective fields. So, we know which materials of which batch in what quantities end up in a specific field. We even know the exact coverage for each field because that data is collected from machinery.
- We, as well, sample and analyze received batches of seeds before using them in the field.
For field operations that we do:
- We track all operations done in those fields and collect all possible data, from manual agronomist scouting (for the presence of weeds, pests, etc.) to automatically collected data from machinery and images from drones;
- Once the produce is ready to be harvested, we take samples and analyze crops in critical areas surrounded by buffer zones to check if there is any contamination from nearby non-organic farms or roads, etc. (till now we have had very little present and any produce with this content is then separated and handled and sold/used as non-organic);
- At harvest time, we start collecting all the data about crops being harvested which we call our products in an End Consumer Product (ECP) sense, (for food producers, these are ingredients).
For products that we harvest:
- The harvester in a field automatically defines the unique LOT definition, which is then automatically tracked through the whole transport and weighing processes;
- Any possible merging that happens is also recorded, and we know which crops from which fields were merged together and when (we normally merge one product of different varieties together);
- All products are checked at the control point before arriving into the warehouse. At the control point, samples are taken and some initial analysis done to ensure we manage our products in the best way once it’s in the warehouse;
- Once products arrive in the warehouse, we place it according to organic production rules and we also process it according to those rules and initial analysis. Any process done for drying, cleaning, or packing is recorded with our software and anything in the bag is always labeled with labels that include needed traceability data all down to a serial number per bag level;
- Many times in between storage processes, we take samples and do analyses to check for possible changes in the humidity and other quality related information;
- Whenever products are sent to a buyer, we take samples (if we do not have one already of that batch) to ensure we have something to compare in case of recall;
- After the harvest, we supply our buyers with a traceability report showing all relevant data for that particular product.
- From our warehouse onwards (either additional external processing or external transport), we rely on traceability data provided by those external partners.
We ensure the collection of traceability data on our farm with our own in-house software solution (different specialized modules ensuring traceability in different areas of farm and processing operations). This software solution will at some point in the future be available for free to external farms, as well.
For all traceability outside of our farm and our control (external transport & external processing, manufacturing of final products, retailers, etc.), we started preparing a POC (proof of concept) for a system to collect as much traceability data as possible in the simplest way possible, and as well relying on the GS1 standard while doing so. But this last part is something that we just started to research and design, and we do not have any working solution in place yet.
So, it is clear that LoginEKO takes traceability seriously, and continues to find ways to ensure transparency throughout our process. We will keep everyone posted as we progress with our POC development.
Lastly, by creating a way to follow the supply chain, additional benefits have emerged. Experts can now use tracking to see where the supply chain can be made more efficient and as a result, lower the carbon footprint of companies. It’s important to note that reducing carbon emissions is synonymous with reduced energy costs. So, by cutting emissions and finding where it’s possible to switch to cleaner energy sources, prices and the pollution level will decrease.
So, happy Earth, happy worth! Truly a win-win.
- DG SANCO website on Food Safety https://food.ec.europa.eu/index_en
- The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed https://food.ec.europa.eu/safety/rasff_en
- The General Food Law is available on the DG SANCO website https://food.ec.europa.eu/horizontal-topics/general-food-law_en
- Guidelines on the Implementation of Traceability https://food.ec.europa.eu/horizontal-topics/general-food-law/food-law-general-requirements_en