A critical look at recent research and development in the area of seafood traceability

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By Milthon Lujan

By Tejas Bhatt*
There has been significant progress in the area of food traceability in recent years. Several food sectors, from produce to meat and poultry, have elevated the importance of traceability and begun to implement interoperability within their supply chains. Also, research has identified the beneficial relationship between effective traceability and food security, sustainability, safety, defense, and protection. From carrying out targeted recalls to preventing food waste, traceability is viewed as an essential prerequisite to better supply chain management.

This Supplement takes a critical look at recent research and development in the area of seafood traceability. The content stems from a collaborative effort between numerous subject matter experts affiliated with academia, industry, regulatory agencies, standards-setting bodies, scientific institutes, conservation-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and technology solution providers. This Supplement is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and is the result of a collaboration between the Institute of Food Technologists Global Food Traceability Center, World Wildlife Fund, FishWise, and Future of Fish.

The first article in the series of four describes the current barriers to interoperability of traceability technology systems in the seafood sector. Marah Hardt and others define digital interoperability and delve into the technical challenges associated with its implementation. Through surveys of the industry and interviews with technology solution providers, they discuss the level of adoption of digital traceability within the seafood sector. They articulate how several stuck points are preventing interoperability from gaining traction, and identify the existing initiatives that are working to overcome these system-level challenges.

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The second article describes the opportunities and range of drivers within the global seafood sector that incentivize the application of traceability. Expanded use of traceability includes: increased consumer demands and media attention; higher legal and social risks; stricter regulatory requirements; and enhanced private-sector sustainability commitments. In this article, Sara Lewis and Mariah Boyle explore why many NGOs, companies, and regulatory agencies have turned to traceability as an essential tool to address these factors arising from expanded use of traceability. They review the range of traceability services, tools, software solutions, and due diligence measures that are currently being leveraged within the seafood sector, and conclude with a discussion of several NGO- and industry-led traceability initiatives that provide examples of seafood traceability improvements.

The third article, by myself and others, compares the lessons learned in the seafood sector with experiences in other sectors. Industries such as finance, travel, health, and other food sectors have enabled more effective interoperable traceability for mitigating supply chain risks, increasing market access, and leveraging operational efficiencies. The findings include the need for strong governance, use of common protocols and standards, alignment of principles, and creation of foundational agreements between supply chain partners as well as between industry and regulatory agencies to enable effective traceability.

The final article in the series lays out a rollout strategy for how verified data exchanged between businesses to enable traceability depends on the existence of interoperable information systems. Martin Gooch and others begin the article by reiterating the benefits that the global seafood industry can capture by implementing interoperable full chain traceability, and the reason for basing the architecture on a peer-to-peer networked database concept versus more traditional centralized linear approaches. They then present a strategy for implementing the architecture for enabling interoperable traceability in the seafood sector.

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References (open):
*(2017), Introduction. Journal of Food Science, 82: A2. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13040

Hardt, M. J., Flett, K. and Howell, C. J. (2017), Current Barriers to Large-scale Interoperability of Traceability Technology in the Seafood Sector. Journal of Food Science, 82: A3–A12. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13796

Lewis, S. G. and Boyle, M. (2017), The Expanding Role of Traceability in Seafood: Tools and Key Initiatives. Journal of Food Science, 82: A13–A21. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13743

Bhatt, T., Gooch, M., Dent, B. and Sylvia, G. (2017), Implementing Interoperability in the Seafood Industry: Learning from Experiences in Other Sectors. Journal of Food Science, 82: A22–A44. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13742

Gooch, M., Dent, B., Sylvia, G. and Cusack, C. (2017), Rollout Strategy to Implement Interoperable Traceability in the Seafood Industry. Journal of Food Science, 82: A45–A57. doi:10.1111/1750-3841.13744

Source: Journal Food Science, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists

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