CSIRO signs Australia up to the Global Food Traceability Centre

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 17th August 2015

The CSIRO has become the first Australian member of the Global Food Traceability Centre. The Centre, launched in the US in 2013, looks at the challenges and opportunities of implementing food traceability across global networks and supply chains.

“Food traceability isn’t just about helping manage a food safety emergency or product recall, although it can significantly reduce the costs if it does happen,” Dr Kari Gobius, CSIRO’s research leader for food safety, said.

“Traceability also has less obvious but proven economic benefits such as improved risk management, supply chain efficiencies and confidence, inventory accuracy, brand reputation and access to new markets and customers.”

A high profile example of poor traceability is the E. coli outbreak of 2011. The source was at first thought to be Spanish cucumbers and the industry destroyed millions of dollars’ worth of produce. The contamination was later traced via German sprouts to fenugreek seeds from Egypt. Fifty three people died and the whole European produce market was adversely affected over the course of the outbreak.

As a member of the Centre, CSIRO will be able to provide Australian industry with the latest research in the area, develop traceability knowledge here and adapt outcomes for Australian conditions.

At a forum chaired by AIFST Chair and President Dr Anne Astin and hosted by the Safe Food Forum, CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia on April 28, Australian and international experts in food traceability met with Dr Will Fisher, the then Vice President of the Institute of Food Technologists and Executive Director of the Global Food Traceability Centre.

“Traceability is the systematic ability to access any or all information relating to a food under consideration throughout its entire life cycle by means of recorded identifications. It’s not just about data, identifiers, barcodes, RFID and tags,” Will said.

With a rise in high visibility foodborne outbreaks, products recalls, counterfeit products, imports from countries with lower standards, complex supply chains and consumer concerns about health and safety risks, there is an urgency for industry to step up on traceability.

“In the world of food safety, we can no longer learn from our mistakes,” Kari said. “We have to prevent mistakes from happening in the first place.”

Image: L-R: Joe Giblin, Icon Global; Dr Will Fisher, formerly Executive Director of the Global Food Traceability Centre; Dr Anne Astin, AIFST Chair and President; Professor Martin Cole, Director of CSIRO’s Food and Nutrition Flagship.