GROWING consumer interest in food provenance and production methods is leading to further development of traceability schemes, according to industry group Organic Monitor. This has increased the number of certification schemes and analytical tools available to food companies.
Traceability schemes were initially introduced to track agricultural commodities such as coffee, cocoa and tea, coming from developing countries. Consumer concerns about food safety have led to new traceability schemes for a wider range of ingredients, including soya, sugar, corn and maize.
Most developments are in North America where divisions in the food industry about GM (genetically modified) labeling have led to a rise in voluntary traceability schemes. As reported at the Sustainable Foods Summit, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) brand Project Verified is the most popular with over 22,000 certified products. Sales of certified products have increased from zero to over US$7 billion within five years.
Organic food sales are benefiting, with concerns about pesticides, growth promoters, as well as GMOs fueling consumer demand. Organic food sales have reached an estimated $32 billion in the United States, comprising over 4% of total food sales.
Traceability schemes are also becoming popular because of concerns about ethical sourcing. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification is a well-established scheme for seafood, whilst the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification is for palm oil. Many similar sustainability schemes are emerging for other food ingredients.
Finally, as the number of food fraud incidences continues to rise, food traceability remains crucial. It is estimated that up to 10% of all food products could be adulterated. Therefore a growing array of analytical and software tools are being used for food authenticity and traceability purposes. Global ID, a leading inspection agency, is using DNA fingerprinting and isotope analysis to detect GMOs and authenticate food origins. Others, such as FoodReg, are developing specialised software solutions to “track and tell” ingredient origins.
With the growing importance of transparency, it is presenting fresh challenges to the food industry, and such issues will be discussed in the upcoming Sustainable Foods Summit. Organised by Organic Monitor, the aim of the summit is to explore new horizons for eco-labels and sustainability in the food industry by discussing key industry issues in a high-level forum. The North American edition will be hosted at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District, San Francisco on 21 to 22 January.