IFT plans specialist food traceability centre

Eggs with barcodesThe Institute of Food Technologists is planning to set up a food traceability centre designed to protect and improve the global food supply.

The Global Food Traceability Centre (GFTC) will serve as an "authoritative, scientific, and unbiased source for food traceability", said the IFT, which noted there is currently no single organisation - either public or private - that is taking the lead on this issue.

Contaminated food is thought to claim the lives of 3,000 people in the US every year, with the cost of food poisoning estimated at $14bn a year, excluding the indirect costs of recalls and litigation that can hit companies.

The new unit's mission will be to accelerate the adoption and implementation of practical traceability solutions by carrying out research, for example on technologies being used within and outside organisations - and developing protocols and standards.

An initial project will be an environmental scan of the regulatory environment in the USA, European Union and Canada with regards to food traceability, according to a concept paper describing the objectives of the Centre. The aim will be to develop a harmonised policy and regulatory approach.

The centre also plans to offer education and training services to other stakeholders in the agriculture and food sectors and will provide technology transfer activities to help new traceability solutions become available commercially.

"Today's global food supply chain has become increasingly complex as companies seek greater efficiencies to feed the world’s growing population," said IFT.

"Product tracing has emerged as a critical tool for increasing the transparency of the attributes and origin of food products - from farm to processing to retail and food service, or to the family table." 

The IFT plans to subsidise the GFTC in its first two years of operations, but has already secured additional funding from sponsors including Cargill, Food Marketing Institute, GS1 US, International Association for Food Protection, Intertek Group, Lyngsoe Systems, Mars, National Fisheries Institute, Produce Marketing Association, Wal-Mart and the University of Guelph.

In time it is anticipated that the centre will be self-financing, with revenues coming from fee based services, and the objective is for it to break even within three years of launch.

The unit will "assist companies to better trace the paths of products through the supply chain to improve food safety, mitigate risk and avoid devastating health consequences and economic impacts to the food system," according to the IFT.

- The news comes as India is reeling from news of that 23 children have died after eating free school lunches contaminated with an insecticide called monocrotophos. The meals were provided via a national scheme - called Mid-Day - that provides meals for 120m children in more than a million schools across India. The head teacher of the school in eastern Bihar state has been arrested as part of the police investigation, according to a BBC news report.

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