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Traceability Systems Needed To Increase Trust In Food Safety

OTTAWA, Nov. 2, 2012 /CNW/ - Recent food product recalls in Canada and around the world reinforces the importance of a robust system of traceability to protect the safety and quality of our food supply. Without such a system, public trust and public safety are at risk.

In a new publication for its Centre for Food in Canada, The Conference Board of Canada recommends that all players in the food supply chain be able to trace where they got a product or ingredient from, and where they sent that product. In other words, each firm in the food supply chain needs to be able to accurately trace its products or ingredients one step forward and one step back in the supply chain.

"Food traceability is a vital part of the food risk management system: it underpins Canadians' trust in food safety, quality, and healthiness," said Alison Howard, Principal Research Associate. "The ability to trace a product's journey from point of sale back to its origin is a vital part of today's food risk management system."

Many food industry firms in Canada already comply with the principle of one-step-forward and one-step-back because of export requirements, private standards, and/or their own internal food safety practices.

To be fully effective, however, traceability systems must all link together so that the entire food supply chain is covered. The one-step-forward and one-step-back approach to traceability can be universally implemented, but, at the same time, lessens the financial burden borne by companies.

While it might be ideal for companies to be able to trace a product or ingredient throughout the entire supply chain, such a process is extremely complex and prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, evaluations of this kind of system found little or no benefit to food safety, so it may not actually be a great improvement over the one-step-forward and one-step-back approach.

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