Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

There’s A Market For Food Traceability Systems

As consumers and the government call for safer food, food traceability systems make it possible to see a product's path from farm to table.

barcodes on onions and green peppers

Photo: avlxyz (flickr)

Some food producers are barcoding their food so that when it's scanned by a smart phone the consumer can see where it's from, if it's been recalled, and contact information for the producer.

Tracking Food-Borne Illness

Thanks to pressure from the federal food safety law and consumer concern about the many food-borne illnesses that gained national attention over the last few years, the ability to track food from production to plate is increasingly important.

Part of the problem with food-borne illness outbreaks is how difficult it is to trace where the pathogens came from and where the food was sold. But now with the backing of the new law and an ever increasing amounts of affordable technology, food traceability development is booming.

This focus on traceability could prove to be a tricky new way of doing business for some farmers, especially those who still use paper records.

There’s An App For That

Some food producers are barcoding their food so that when it’s scanned by a smart phone the consumer can see where it’s from, if it’s been recalled, and contact information for the producer. Other application designers have made apps that grade the product on a health scale, show results of restaurants’ health inspections, and demystify labels.

HarvestMark, a California developer that is used by more than 200 companies including Kroger’s, has made a barcode system that traces the path a food product has taken from the farm to where it was purchased. Often, if the consumer does not have a smart phone, the barcode number can be entered on a website to retrieve the same information.

Supporters and traceability developers say that using technology in this way can help consumers make more informed decisions about the food they buy and will help stop food-borne illnesses from spreading so quickly. These systems help to keep food producers accountable for their products while making sense of the vast amount of information available about the product.

Government-Sponsored, In Canada

Although traceability barcodes are currently a private operation in America, the Canadian government announced that it awarded $3.7 million to the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) to help develop a traceability system. CPC reports, “The animal movement information we will collect will be used to contain and reduce the spread of foreign swine diseases so they can be eliminated.”

Read More:

  • Traceability rule represents big adjustment for food industry (The Washington Post)
  • CPC’s Traceability Program Continues to Move Forward (Live-PR)
Julie Rooney

Julie Rooney is a vegetarian, musician, and artist who primarily works in video and new media. Currently she is the director of Low Road Gallery, a non-profit contemporary art gallery located in Greencastle, Indiana.

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  • http://twitter.com/fachinello Alexandre Fachinello

    Great Julie! Brazilian market is also concerned with these issues. I'm Alexandre, from Checkplant Traceability Systems in Brazil and we recently launched a project with Walmart in Brazil to trace the beef from farm to store at the supermarket, and the project, besides giving more safety to the consumers, is reducing the devastation of the Amazon Forest. You can check it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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