Tracking food and livestock

Tracking food and livestock
Food and livestock traceability and tracking are now very hot topics because of severe threats to health and the need to comply with stringent new legislation. For example the latest avian influenza outbreaks have twice the kill percentage of smallpox and the World Health Organisation warns of a repetition of the pandemic in 1918 when 20-40 million died. Bioterrorism is another challenge and timely and accurate detection, tracing and action are central to dealing with these problems.

Rapid paybacks

On the brighter side, it is now realised that these technologies can improve parameters in the food chain by up to 90%, from crime to stocks and time to market of prepared food. Paybacks are very rapid and rollouts increasingly frequent on this basis alone. They are driven by mandates as much as legislation. For example MacDonald's, the world's largest meat seller, now demands full traceability by suppliers and Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has mandated RFID tagging of all incoming pallets and cases and most of these contain food. It wants to put these radio barcodes on everything on the supermarket shelf as soon as it is feasible. Meanwhile, DNA analysis, retinal scanning and other technologies are improving in leaps and bound and will greatly improve the provision of information and service to consumers and other concerned parties.

Unique new analysis

This unique new report is the first to analyse in depth the use of all technologies available and expected for animal and food product identification and traceability. The potential with livestock is billions yearly and, with food, it is trillions yearly.

Detailed forecasts and analysis of schemes

We present 29 new case studies that we have researched globally on what is being done in major trials and rollouts and the lessons learnt. We give new ten year RFID forecasts 2005-2015 for food tagging at both item and pallet/ case level and for livestock as well as putting them in the context of overall forecasts for the RFID market. Suppliers of appropriate hardware and services have just started to grow at around 100% yearly - we look at who and why.
The main themes of this report are:
  • What is tracking and traceability and why is it needed?
  • Food scares and public health. Disease outbreaks, threats of bioterrorism, theft, fraud and residue contamination have a huge effect on the food industry.
  • Livestock identification and health monitoring by in situ tags. This is a huge potential market. There are varied technologies available and the market is set to grow dramatically over the next 5 - 10 years as yet more new legislation comes into force demanding animal identification.
  • Identification and tracking of foodstuffs. The technology ranges from paper barcodes to DNA and RFID. This is a multi million dollar market set to grow very rapidly, with increasing adoption of smart packaging and status monitoring of such things as temperature excursions and unwanted bacteria.
  • Implementation across the world - lessons of success and failure.
We look at the big picture in terms of the major issues within the food industry where traceability will have a major positive impact:
  • Animal disease. Major disease outbreaks, such as BSE, cost the industry billions of dollars. Traceability can help contain these outbreaks and prevent spread of disease.
  • Food scares. Traceability assists food residue surveillance schemes and minimises the cost involved in a product recall event.
  • Food poisoning. 32 million children under five die of food related illness every year (WHO). The technology is available now to prevent this and track the source of problems.
  • Consumer confidence and public health. A transparent industry is needed to maintain consumer trust and loyalty. Traceability goes a long way to achievement of a secure and safe food supply chain
  • Cold chain management. Up to 20 per cent of perishable food is expired on reaching destination (FDA). RFID provides unprecedented visibility that makes the food chain much more efficient. RFID technology with sensing can prevent breaks in the cold chain.
  • Bioterrorism. The threat of an attack via our food chain is a real one and the only way to circumvent an incident is by enforcing food chain traceability. The new US Bioterrorism Act 2004 and EU legislation in 2005 go a long way to doing this. Automated monitoring of food condition throughout the supply chain will take it further.
  • Global trade. Today international trade is massive and if companies want to keep market access to, for example, the European Union EU they must be able to prove traceability.
We give an overview of the current legislation. However, it is likely that legislation will increase as new technologies are standardised and adopted. Many countries e.g. Canada aim to avoid legislation and enforcement where possible and prefer to rely on voluntary methods. The USA and Europe are likely to introduce yet more legislation.

The need for traceability

Food traceability is a new buzz word around the globe. The food industry has realised that finished products are now only a small part of the picture. Quality assurance schemes, brand names and healthy diets are taking over. Consumers demand safe, affordable and high-quality foods.
Benefits of a food traceability system do not stop with the needs of the consumer. Many disease outbreaks, such as foot and mouth disease and product recalls, cost the industry billions of dollars each. Traceability has the potential to help control and prevent disease outbreaks and minimize the cost of a product recall in the event of a problem. Coca-Cola's Dasani water recall was a recent example.
Food Traceability facilitates:
  • Protection of food safety
  • Protection of animal health
  • Control of disease outbreaks
  • Operation of food residue surveillance schemes
  • Quick and efficient product recalls
  • Operation of quality assurance schemes
  • Protection against bioterrorism
  • Marketing of brand names and establishing and maintaining trust
  • Cost control
  • Fraud control
  • Theft control

Methods of traceability

There are a variety of methods available which allow identification and traceability of an animal or product but RFID will be the most widely used method with supplementary technologies such as DNA testing playing a vital part, particularly as they become fast, low-cost and deskilled. Table 1 gives examples of track and trace methods.
Table 1: Examples of track and trace methods
Source IDTechEx
For more see the new report Food and Livestock Traceability - Forecasts, Needs and Best Practices. Principal author is Emma Napier MA VetMB MRCVS, a practising vetinary surgeon with the backing of the full IDTechEx research team across the globe