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Asia Pacific: Australia’s CSIRO joins Global Food Traceability Centre

CSIRO has become the first Australian member of the Global Food Traceability Centre.

The Centre, launched 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,” said Dr Kari Gobius, CSIRO’s research leader for food safety.

“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.

“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, bar codes, radio frequency identification and tags,” said Dr Will Fisher, former VP of the Institute of Food Technologists and executive director of the Centre.

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.”

The Safe Food Forum is an initiative under the auspices of the National Food and Nutrition Research and Development and Technology Transfer Strategy and is a taskforce of national food safety experts from industry, regulatory authorities and researchers including CSIRO.

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