Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020 - 58

TECHNOLOGY

TRACEABILITY
by Andy Nelson

TRACING THE PROGRESS OF A
FOOD PRODUCT from farm to
fork continues to be increasingly
important to consumers, grocery
retailers and their supplier
partners.
And the trend has only
accelerated with the coronavirus,
as industry members up and
down the supply chain seek to
assure consumers that, while
they may have to fear contact
with their fellow citizens, at
least they can rely on a safe
food supply.
The US Food and Drug
Administration signaled
its increased emphasis on
traceability even before the
pandemic struck.

The agency's New Era of
Smarter Food Safety initiative
builds on existing efforts to
implement the Food Safety
Modernization Act by incorporating new technologies to create "a
more digital, traceable and safer
system to help protect consumers from contaminated food,"
according to the FDA.
Traceability, along with
transparency, is at the heart
of the agency's new effort.
Following stakeholder input that
began last year, the FDA hopes
to issue a strategic blueprint for
implementation of New Era of
Smarter Food Safety this year.
"When it comes to food
traceability, many in the food

Lowering response times
Thomas Burke, food safety
and traceability scientist for
the Chicago-based Institute
of Food Technologists (IFT),
said that for grocery retailers
and their suppliers, traceability
is still focused on improving
their response to food safety
emergencies, especially for fresh
produce.
"Over the last two years, there
was a lot of excitement on the
application of blockchain to
digitize supply chains," Burke
said. "While there is still interest
in blockchain, the pilots and small
implementations among retailers
and their suppliers revealed that
their needs in traceability need

For retailers to be more nimble and
responsive to disruptions in their supply
chain, they're looking to enhance their
capabilities to analyze and make rapid
decisions regarding their suppliers."
Thomas Burke, IFT
58 - AUGUST 2020

supermarketperimeter.com

not necessarily include this
specific technology."
Standardization and data
collection incentivization for
traceability, for example, are
critically important to being able
to enable external traceability.
Burke said COVID has
accelerated interest in digital
technologies, including those
which enhance traceability,
because it has made traditional
third-party auditing and
verification of food safety
practices difficult.

TOOLS OF
TRACEABILITY
* Blockchain-based supply
tracking system
* Distributed ledgers
* Sensors
* The internet of things
* Artificial intelligence
* Standardization
* Data collection
incentivization

"For retailers to be more nimble
and responsive to disruptions in
their supply chain, they're looking
to enhance their capabilities to
analyze and make rapid decisions
regarding their suppliers," he
said. "They're seeing traceability
and other digital technologies as
investments in resilience."
After COVID, there may be a
permanent shift in consumer
behavior regarding how they
consume food, Burke added.
In the months prior to the
pandemic, many consumers
were eating outside the home
more than inside.
Now, however, they've gained
skills in home preparation and
retailers have expanded their
ability to deliver food directly to
customers, he said.

IFT

system still utilize a largely paperbased system of taking one step
forward to identify where the
food has gone and one step back
to identify the source," according
to the agency. "The use of new
and evolving digital technologies
envisioned in the effort will
play a pivotal role in tracing
the origin of a contaminated
food to its source in minutes, or
even seconds, instead of days
or weeks."
A blockchain-based supply
tracking system, distributed
ledgers, sensors, the internet of
things and artificial intelligence
are among the technologies that
will lead the way.


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Supermarket Perimeter - August 2020

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