Traceability schemes boom as consumers demand transparency

Friday, 09 January, 2015

Increasing consumer demand for transparency has led to a growing number of food traceability certification schemes and analytical tools, according to Organic Monitor.

Originally introduced to track agricultural commodities from developing countries, traceability schemes were first used for coffee, cocoa and tea. Consumer concerns about food safety have led to new traceability schemes for a wide range of ingredients, including soy, sugar and corn.

Organic Monitor says the growing importance of transparency presents fresh challenges for the food industry. Food companies and retailers need to decide which ingredients to focus on and then select suitable traceability or sustainability schemes.

GM (genetically modified) labelling has seen huge growth in the United States in particular. Non-GMO Project Verified is the most popular of these voluntary traceability schemes, with more than 22,000 certified products. Sales of certified products have increased from zero to more than US$7 billion in five years.

Organic food sales have also boomed as consumer concern about pesticides, growth promoters and GMOs has grown. Organic food sales have reached US$32 billion in the US alone, comprising more than 4% of total food sales.

Ethical sourcing has also driven the need for traceability schemes. Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification exists for seafood, the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for palm oil, Bonsucro for cane sugar and ProTerra for soy, among others.

Another factor driving this demand is the rising incidence of food fraud such as the horsemeat scandal. It is estimated that up to 10% of all food products could be adulterated. Global ID uses DNA fingerprinting and isotope analysis to detect GMOs and authenticate food origins, while others, such as FoodReg, are developing specialised software solution to ‘track and tell’ ingredient origins.

These issues and others will be discussed at the upcoming Sustainable Foods Summit in San Francisco on 21 and 22 January 2015.

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