Why Entrepreneurs Should Care About Food Traceability
Living in an era of globalisation, the world today has become a global village, and its inhabitants enjoy access to various cuisines and preparations sitting in any part of the globe.
On the consumer end, they have much more to relish as the supermarkets come stocked with more and more products. However, it has left the food industry in a maze, which is global, complex and dynamic in nature. Similarly, it has left the consumers in a lurch about basic facts regarding the source of their food. With such an overwhelming variety, today’s consumer needs to look beyond the expiry details on the food packaging.
The food packaging has gained immense importance as it is the gateway to know a bit more about what you are going to consume. While this is a good start, on the other hand, the data related to food illness and deaths due to mediocre quality food is glaring, making such efforts weak and futile. According to the WHO report, “about 600 million people fall ill after consuming contaminated food every year. Out of this, around 420,000 people die due to food-related illness every year.” This makes food traceability immediate concern for consumers.
The chances of food contamination and spoilage increase around festivities. It is true for every country. To take cognizance of this situation, during the 2018 Thanksgiving, Honeysuckle White, a Cargill-owned brand, launched a campaign allowing consumers to track the origin of turkey on which they will be feasting. A unique and a first of its kind initiative, the turkey consumers in Texas simply had to enter the code on the packaging into the web page of the company and get all the details about the bird. The consumers got information like the farm in which the bird was grown, an insight about the farm and the farm owners. With this campaign, Honeysuckle White tried bringing about a transparency between the farm owners and the end consumers.
This phenomenon of tracing food is becoming essential from a safety point of view and ensuring that the food is getting sourced responsibly and ethically.
Such food traceability is about truly empowering the end consumer. They get to know all the details about the food, which is gracing their plate. With such traceability, building the trust factor between the food brand and consumer can become a reality. Even though regulations and food norms exist, however, considering the many kinds and sources of food, a micro level monitoring over every ingredient is not practical.
Moreover, it is this global food pantry that is becoming a leading cause of food contamination. Like the melamine scandal that happened in China. A chemical substance was added to the milk to increase the protein content. Before the breach could be detected, the contaminated milk products were exported to 47 countries. To eliminate this kind of food fraud, tracking of every ingredient is necessary and at every step. Such food frauds are costing the industry around $10 to $15 billion every year only in the US.
The Changing Consumer Behaviour
David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the US Food and Drug Administration stated, “Thirty years ago, if you had a little problem, you were not going to get discovered. Now the chances of getting caught are significant, and it can be the end of your company.” This is primarily because the consumer today is far more vigilant and aware. The possibility of contamination cannot be ruled out in the past. However, the scope may have been less as regulations have always been in place and the consumer did not have many choices. Today’s end consumer is using ingredients and indulging in global preparations and is more curious than ever before about the origin of their food. The consumers are a lot more aware of their rights and want to know if the food is being sourced responsibly.
Even the number of food recalls happening across the globe signifies the increasing need for food traceability. According to a CNBC report, “the annual product recalls by the US Department of Agriculture that also regulates meat producers has risen to 83.4% from 2012 to 2017.” With such staggering figures, getting reported from one country alone, more and more companies are looking up to food traceability as an effective and fool-proof solution.
Food Traceability, Empowering Brands
Along with empowering consumers, food traceability is also enhancing the value of a brand. The consumers look up to such brands with trust and consider their products authentic. Besides, this works like a big boost for the brand and taking corrective measures in the event of an anomaly will be easy. With such an action in place, the brand can recall a food product far more quickly.
Food traceability is imperative; the growing need of every country, company and consumer. It is a must for public health as concerns over food safety and quality continue to escalate the world over.