Traceability – The Missing Link in Food Industry
All of a sudden pregnant women were asked to stop eating fish. The apex bodies in the medical fraternity sent out a worldwide communication to gynecologists and obstetricians about this. While salmon, herring, anchovies, caviar, and sardines are confirmed to contain high nutritional value of Omega-3 fatty acids, pregnant women were renouncing fish from their daily menu. What happened? A contradicting and threatening message that was not given enough room to be validated spread like wildfire.
Here is what actually happened.
Fish turned out to be carriers of toxic metals such as arsenic, mercury, and cadmium. They consumed these toxins from contaminated ground water, polluted by industrial wastes and other environmental hazards. By the time they reached consumer markets, the consumer could not track where they came from or how they were produced. And, this production was voluminous to track for retailers too. Lack of transparency about the source and process of production raised an alarm about the authenticity of food.
So, without any ado fish was made the villain. Here, fish is not the problem. In some countries, chicken, food grains and pulses, fruits and vegetables are the problem.
But honestly, to me the problem is the source and process of production. I would call this problem ‘Traceability’. Traceability is the process of tracking the history of the food produced to determine its quality. In the larger scale of operations and food supply chain, it is extremely difficult to track the purity, and quality of food.
Food Safety and Future
Lack of traceability leads to unsustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles. The upcoming generations track every bit of their lives using phones, wearables, social networks and other technologies. Now, they are demanding for a safe future of what they eat. This means taking responsibility of the soil fertility, seed quality, and cultivation process.
Such responsibility reflects only with strong traceability.
A Retailer’s Responsibility To Trace Food Quality
With a strong line of traceability suspicion among consumers about the quality of food available in the market can be eliminated. Farm certifications, food labels and seals are some visible ways in which the quality of organic food can be communicated to the final consumer. These tokens of proof are initiated by the producer, but there is a responsibility to trace food for the retailers too.
Responsible State commissions and agricultural agencies have listed the need for many controls that can monitor the food quality. To me, the culture of setting controls right from farm to fork is essential for traceability.
At 24Mantra, we have invested in an ERP system that assigns each lot to its respective source of farm and farmer. I take pride in mentioning that we among the very few retailers in India who have taken responsibility of identifying the sources and history of the food that goes into th shelf for our consumers. To my team and me, food traceability is a matter of being socially responsible and compliance for better trust.
Traceability is that missing link that tells the consumer what she is eating.