For a decade, the food industry has worked to trace food from the sea or field to the final consumer. These traceability efforts are growing in popularity. France and the UK have passed laws that hold companies accountable for human rights violations within their supply chains in the last six years. France’s law covers environmental abuses, and a new German law will be in effect in 2023.
The proposed regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration would require food industry participants to keep sortable electronic records that can be accessed within 24 hours of a food-borne illness or recall investigation. According to estimates, the regulation would apply to categories between 20% and 30% of all food consumed in the US. Early estimates indicate that the regulation could impact more than 20,000 farms and 10,000 manufacturers. It would also affect nearly 20,000 distributors and more than 350,000 restaurants and retail establishments. This is the largest proposed change to food regulation in many decades.
The FAO of the United Nations estimates that around one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted worldwide. This is equivalent to 1.3 billion tons worth of food is lost each year. Due to the rapid growth of global populations, food production must increase by 70%. This means that approximately 1.4 billion hectares worth of agricultural land is wasted. There is a substantial loss of resources due to food loss and food waste at every stage in the supply chain.
Food loss or food waste means food that has been thrown away by the retailers because of its condition, and by consumers as plate scraps. This includes leftovers from restaurants and kitchens as well as decaying and perishable foods. Food loss is when food goes unattended at any point in the supply chain. This includes crop failures, pre-harvest or post-harvest losses, mishandling, and transportation losses. FAO defines food loss as the decrease in the quality or quantity of food upstream. Food waste, however, in a nutshell, is food that is discarded or not used.
USDA estimates that supermarkets lose $15 billion annually due to the perishable nature of a few foods. Food wastage can be caused by damaged goods, expired dates, seasonal products, or overstocked goods. It can also be caused by unfinished meals, leftovers, lack of inventory management, improper storage, over-preparation, excessive stock, expiry dates, or inadvertently storing food.
Food waste reduction is key to feeding the current population. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals make food waste one of their top priorities. SDG 12 is about Sustainable Consumption & Production Patterns. It calls for a 50% reduction in global food waste by consumers and retailers and a 30% reduction in food loss throughout the value chain by 2030.
This grave problem requires changes at all levels, not just at the consumer but also in industry and policy. Many food processors and drives are seeking solutions to reduce food waste. Digitization of the supply chain should significantly reduce food loss and wastage.
Transparency to the ecosystem will be achieved through end-to-end traceability using Blockchain technology. This technology enables efficient tracking and traceability of food throughout the supply chain. Collaboration will be encouraged among all participants in the chain by sharing data. These solutions provide greater insight into the storage and logistics processes, which can help reduce food waste. Reduced food waste helps prevent carbon emissions from rising and keeps them under control. Blockchain technology could revolutionize sustainable supply chain management. This could feed millions and save up to $120 million annually.
Technology allows us to forecast the fate of food waste. There is a need to find a solution as millions of tons of perfectly edible food are dumped into landfills. One of the easiest solutions is to make food date labels uniform across all retail and supermarket stores. CGF has approved a Call to Action to standardize food dates worldwide by 2020. The goal is to reduce food waste by half by 2030. It will take massive industry alignment and robust tools to reduce food waste in a complex food chain. They could also help achieve food waste reduction goals, even though they are true. If supply chain partners adopt all protocols, procedures, and policies, visibility will help accelerate the “plugging” of waste areas. The World Economic Forum gathered together the technologies that could significantly impact reducing food losses.
Traceability can be a boon for manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, or consumers. It can significantly reduce the risk of food recalls and limit losses. However, managing the entire food supply chain is essential to reduce wastage at different points. This digital identity can be attached to products and allows them to be easily traced along with their batch number, expiry date details, and batch number. This could help address food safety concerns and drive sustainability by reducing food wastage, lowering inefficiencies, and lowering costs in food supply chains and bettering quality significantly.
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'Traceability in 2020: Global Scenario with a focus on India'