Which Countries are the Best at Tracing Where Their Food Came From?

In an ever-increasingly complex food system, tracing our food becomes more and more complicated. Where was a certain ingredient produced? Who processed it? How was it distributed?

When there’s a food scare caused by an illness outbreak, these are important questions that need to be answered. If a jar of peanut butter is making people sick, you have to be able to go back through the supply chain to figure out what exactly is causing the illness. Is it the peanuts themselves? Is it something in the processing facility? Or maybe the jar was contaminated when it was packaged?

“Currently, the complexity of following food through a global supply chain makes the process of traceability slow and inefficient in times of crisis,” Brian Sterling, managing director of the Global Food Traceability Center, told Food Safety News.

Sterling is one of the authors of a new report on food traceability, published in the journal Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. The report ranks the food traceability practices in the 21 OECD countries. In the report, the only area of the world where countries were found to have “Superior” food traceability practices was the European Union. The United States, along with other countries like Canada and Japan, were ranked as “Average.”

Why are European countries ranked so well? The EU has made food traceability a cornerstone of their food policy, and they even have an interactive website to explain food traceability to consumers. Adopting EU legislation has made these countries leaders in food traceability.

Everywhere else in the world, we have a bit of work to do. As Food Safety News points out, the United States is “one of only two major beef-producing countries without a national cattle identification or traceability system.” This contributes to making the U.S. score “Average.” China, however,†ranks as “Poor.”

“Standardized traceability of food products does not currently exist in China. It’s a long way from it,” David Mahon, Beijing-based managing director of an investment firm focusing on China’s food and beverage sectors, told the Independent.

Ensuring food traceability also means ensuring the technology to be able to this kind of tracking across complex supply systems. There’s certainly an economic argument to be made for embracing food traceability; according to The Guardian, “the global market for food traceability technology is predicted to grow by 8.7% annually for the rest of the decade and be†worth $14.1bn by 2020.”

In our modern global age, our food can come from anywhere on the planet, and this alone highlights the need for better systems to be in place to assure that countries can better deal with food crises.

“This is why itís imperative that traceability requirements and regulations be harmonized across the globe. Industry and regulators need to minimize the potential for misunderstanding and delays due to difficulties in understanding each countryís practices. Harmonizing requirements has been shown to mitigate unnecessary costs of compliance,” Sterling said.

Photo Credit: Lyza

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89 comments

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.about a year ago

Thank you . The Us needs to do lots more.

Gerald L.
Gerald L.about a year ago

One of the many reasons we need government investigators, follow the honey, or the contaminated gluten with melamine in 1997 which was used in pet food sourced from China.

Where Does Your Honey Come From? - Article - ChefShop.com
chefshop.com/Where-Does-Your-Honey-Come-From-Article-P7300.aspx‎
During the 1990s, the US imported between 30% and 40% of its honey needs, ... Most of this honey was processed and shipped in 55-gallon drums or ... alleging that the Chinese and Argentine producers were "dumping" honey in the USA. ... cheap Chinese honey was staying in Australia to be mixed with Australian honey,

[DOC] Rare arrests in honey plot - University of Puget Sound
www.pugetsound.edu/facultypages/bdillman/honey.doc‎
30 Dec 2008 ... In the U.S., where bee colonies are dying off and demand for imported honey ... tariffs and health safeguards in order to dump cheap honey on the market, ... Big shipments of contaminated honey from China are frequently laundered ... Most of the unmarked, blue drums were still in their shipping containers

Show me the honey - Green Blog - ANR Blogs
ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=4316‎
2 Mar 2011 ... “Going green” means buying local honey, say honey bee experts at the University ... shipments of contaminated honey from China are frequently laundered in other ... Chinese honey is often shipped into the United States from Australia, ... honey that was falsely identified to avoid U.S. anti-dumping d

Margie Szelmeczka
Margaret Szelmeczkaabout a year ago

Interesting. But we need more people caring about it and presenting it to pollsters in election years. People need to ask the pollsters coming to doors to answer this question and find out where candidates stand, or call their local office.

Sandy G.
sandy g.about a year ago

Wow. I wasn't aware of the issues Charmaine mentioned, but I had a great friend, recently passed, in the UK and I know that labeling is much more advanced there than in the US. China? Did anyone actually expect them to rank anywhere BUT poor?? They have to be in the top ten most barbaric countries on the planet, maybe top five.

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.about a year ago

Yes, it's works very well doesn't it...that's why, for years, we were all eating horse meat in the UK instead of beef and muslims ended up eating pork fat injected into their chicken.....we can trace where it comes from but we can't rely on the suppliers to practice ethical and moral standards. People will do absolutely anything for money no matter where they live and work.

Lucy S.
Past Member about a year ago

Thanks for the article!

David W.
David W.about a year ago

Interesting

Rose NoFWDSPLZ
Rose Beckeabout a year ago

Thanks for ranking Steven G

Yvette S.
Yvette S.about a year ago

Thanks for the info

Mary T.
Mary T.about a year ago

The US needs to follow the European nations