Your favorite dips, salads and fish might be recalled for infection. What are the food authorities doing about it?
The demand for value chain transparency in the food industry is higher now than ever; thanks to the food chain’s globalization, now people can know where, how and by whom the food was produced at what societal and environmental cost. The advent of new technologies such as Traceability, AI, and Blockchain has significantly enhanced food security in the last few years, more so after the COVID-19 pandemic. These technologies have already brought a paradigm shift in the global food value chains, making them hyper-transparent and data-driven. This change will directly impact farmers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and customers to increase the entire food chain’s transparency and efficiency. As countries work towards their economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, government’s worldwide are investing in services that are essential to the growth and safety of agriculture and agri-food businesses.
There are multitudinous challenges in agriculture, which a single technological implementation might not be able to resolve. This necessitates the implementation of technologies as the food producers and distributors would know which farmer grew the crop, under which conditions, when and where. Moreover, traceability helps make the food supply chain efficient and transparent. It also helps in making the farmers share the provenance story with the customers.
Disruptions with the shortage of labor witnessed during COVID in up-north make us believe that farm automation will continue to grow steadily in the Agri-Food Supply Chains with lesser dependence on manual labor being considered by the industry. The food chain is also in dire need of cobiotics, a technology that uses computer-controlled robots to communicate physically with humans and numerous other automation systems. The use of drones in farm surveillance, seeding and various farming purposes, requires Blockchain technology that bars any alteration of data after recording. Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and countless other technologies have already been implemented across the world.
Monitoring, Evaluation and ROI are being deduced considering the ‘scale’ of farming plays a critical role; smaller lands versus the huge acres is where technology intervention needs to be normalized. One of the chief motives of implementing cutting-edge technologies is to enhance food safety and reduce any risk of spoilage, wastage, or contamination.
The FDA requires full transparency around a food or beverage product’s manufacturing practices and whereabouts in the supply chain, under the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act), passed in the year 2011.
Today, food manufacturers realize the need to integrate their existing ERP systems with a single comprehensive tech-solution that presents a dashboard of complex issues like safety, security, transparency, compliance across the siloes of field, factory, suppliers, payments to farmers, distributor network, and retail to eventually provide field-to-fork data view of each and every product in their supply chain.
Global food companies are implementing effective ag-tech solutions that empower their F&B business to uphold quality and safety, prevent and accelerate the management of recalls, lower the cost of compliance, improve operational efficiency, and build consumer loyalty and trust.
The USFDA uses import alerts to enforce U.S. food safety regulations for food from foreign countries including problems with cheese, shrimp, misbranding, pesticides and more recently baby food. Although much care is taken in farming for sensitive food categories, say, rice for baby cereal has certain toxic elements, such as arsenic and lead, that are present in the environment and may enter the food supply through the soil, water or air.
Because these elements are naturally occurring in the environment, they cannot be completely avoided in fruits, vegetables, or grains. Neither can organic farming practices completely be fool-proof in such cases. Hence, traceability in the supply chain to the greatest extent is required, and progress in this area through enhanced collaboration among value chain stakeholders is critical.
The agriculture and agri-food industry of Canada alone contributes over $110B annually to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2019, the total Canadian agri-food imports touched a whopping $53.9 billion. 14 Free Trade Agreements, covering 51 countries, has given the Canadian agri-food industry a competitive edge in 2/3 of the global markets. It is no surprise that the Government of Canada has recently announced an investment of $162.6 million in the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) over the period of next five years. To sustain and prolong the integrity of Canada’s food safety system, another $40 million per year is allocated on an ongoing basis.
This seems a fair decision to safeguard their food supply, provide ongoing support to Canadian businesses in their export and import activities to overcome pandemic interruptions and global trade volatility. This impetus will bolster an already robust and effective regulatory system allowing the Agency to continue to respond effectively and quickly to import/export activities, perform surveillance and digitize forms as well as the documents across the supply chain from farm to retail.
Supply chains are getting complex each day; with the COVID-19 pandemic, new challenges have made the supply chain even grimmer and muddled. Food and Beverage companies are now looking to leverage the power of innovative and transformational technologies such as Traceability to ensure efficiency and transparency in the food chain resulting in superior product quality, increased customer trust, and brand reputation. Traceability also helps food and beverage companies prevent fraud and contamination with active product tracking, enhanced food security, offer sustainability improvement and circular economy solutions. The food industry also anticipates cutting down food wastage due to spoilage and other external factors, thus saving money lost in negligence, transport delays etc.
Many large beverage companies such as Starbucks have implemented blockchain traceability to efficiently and effectively manage their coffee provenance from beans-to-brew. Large retailers such as Costco have gone a level further by not only stocking from company-owned farms for fresh vegetables and fruits but also managing these farms with IoT sensors and Supply Chain Management solutions, with an aim to measure and track precise farm-to-aisle cycle and inventory management. These are pilots that the world needs to adopt in 2021 and beyond.
About 46 million people are involved in modern slavery worldwide! Shocked?
As per Ben Greensmith, Tony’s Chocolonely’s UK Country Manager, nearly 2 million child laborers are employed illicitly in Africa, specifically in the Cocoa sector. What makes child labor and modern slavery prevalent in Africa is the Cocoa supply chain’s complex nature. People are being forced to work for long hours with bare minimum or no pay at all. Modern slavery is a societal disgrace and has captivated the attention of governments, businesses, and other pertinent authorities. Still, as long as the cocoa demand remains, it is almost impossible to stop child labor or modern slavery because of its pervasive nature.
Speaking of Fashion Industry, there is no denying that fashion and food industry are undoubtedly skewed towards malpractices such as sweatshops, child labor, low wages, unfair practices, harmful exposure to chemicals and more. Customers, however, have a choice to opt for FairTrade certified chocolate compounds or an ethically produced 100% cotton-hemp shirt. The insistence of such certifications, responsible sourcing and circular supply chains is a current trend and seems to be escalating at a significant rate. These claims can be testified using technology and traceable-transparent supply chains.
Batch records help companies log data packets, making it easier for them to find errors. Electronic batch records can help reduce human errors and streamline data, offer the ability to track, quickly fix any errors in real-time, and generate necessary documentation concurrently. Electronic batch enables companies to handle critical data efficiently and record each move. It can save and manage data related to employees, manufacturing processes, equipment maintenance records, supplier details, and much more. Electronic batch records also give companies the benefit of systems like Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Process Control Systems (PCS), and more.
Nations are looking to make the most to achieve zero hunger set by the UN as the deadline is only 10 years away. The workings towards a green, sustainable food system have commenced in several nations keeping the goal in perspective. Agri-businesses are leveraging their positions as manufacturers or producers influence a positive change in the industry to ensure growth in the right direction by focusing on investment in transformational technologies that bring a significant variance in the supply chain and production, encouraging farmers to adopt modern farming methods and building the supply chain as per the farmers’ outlook, and moving beyond working as individual companies by collaborating with other industries with the help of the government.
“Traceability will expand beyond food safety and production methods to encompass aroma, flavor, texture, nutritional benefits, and other aspects of food quality,”
~ Jean Pougnier, CEO, Crop Enhancement
“Traceability will be the main contributor to farm safety at the farm or production level, as it makes it easier to track the origin of food, while AI and Blockchain will provide opportunities at the farm level.”
~ Frost & Sullivan Research
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'Traceability in 2020: Global Scenario with a focus on India'