Affordable and reliable full-chain traceability depends on seafood producers routinely providing a consistent set of basic information based on shared industry-wide expectations.
Although this is one of the lessons learned from the development and growth of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety standard, this approach is yet to be widely applied in the seafood industry to other key data elements, or to traceability itself.
The seafood industry has a lot to gain from creating the conditions needed for cost-effective and reliable interoperability of traceability systems and the associated reduction in supply chain costs and risks.
Cost-effective full-chain traceability
According to research (McEntire and Bhatt 2012), traceability systems can benefit businesses and entire sectors, from a production, marketing, and value chain management perspective.
The quantitative benefits include:
- protection of public health
- improved trade
- strengthened sustainability practices
- reduced recall scope
- increased consumer trust
- quality assurance and value-chain efficiencies
- reduction of brand risk arising from association with unacceptable labour practices.
In addition, when assessing the costs of traceability, many businesses are unaware that they already have many of the systems and practices in place, and that they can use the existing information differently (for example food safety and production efficiencies) to support traceability.
However, full-chain traceability is only effective when the information transmitted along the chain is reliable. In addition, when it comes to the collection of key fisheries elements (KDEs), both the collection and transmission of the information must be interoperable in order to reduce the cost of implementing traceability.
In the same study, 65% of firms indicated that “traceability enables us to manage our business more successfully than otherwise possible.” Twice as many firms collaborating on a pre-competitive basis (60%) used some standards in their traceability system compared to firms that were not collaborating as effectively (30%). This may indicate that firms in the latter chains are less experienced in developing and implementing standards for traceability.
Most firms in the study also identified “inconsistent global technology” and “inconsistent traceability standards” as one of the top risks preventing the adoption of more effective traceability.
Of the 48 firms, 24 had a base of operations in North America, 11 in Europe, 11 in Asia, and two in South America. Most of the individual firms surveyed participated in more than one activity (such as processing and distribution). Of the 48 firms surveyed, 11 of them participated in fish farming and/or wild capture; 26 indicated they participated in primary and/or secondary processing; 19 participated in distribution; and 17 participated in either retail, restaurants, or food service.