Guest industry blog: by Anne-Marie Arts, Food Safety Representative, United Fresh Technical Advisory Group and Melanie Trotman, Project Co-ordinator, United Fresh SFFF Traceability Project

United Fresh is seeking feedback on Draft Traceability Guidelines for New Zealand.

Reliable and robust traceability systems are no longer an optional extra in the produce industry, but a baseline requirement of increasing importance. Ineffective or non-existent traceability systems present challenges for growers, packers, marketers, retailers and ultimately consumers. The incidence rate of foodborne illnesses attributed to fresh produce is rising worldwide, increasing the need for effective and robust traceability systems.

Currently, traceability in the New Zealand domestic produce supply chain is not working to a common standard, since each supply chain varies in its management of internal and external traceability, with external traceability working well in some cases, or not at all in others.

For the past 2 years, United Fresh has been working on and managing an MPI funded Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures (SFFF) project entitled: “Effective Fresh Produce Traceability Systems”. This work has resulted in the release of a set of Draft Traceability Guidelines as an industry consultation document, which is available under the following link:

Internal traceability succeeds or fails as a consequence of a supply chain participant’s ability to optimise both internal and external traceability. The enabler for a robust traceability system is interoperability, the ability of a system “to work with, or use, the parts or equipment of another system”. The United Fresh SFFF Traceability Project has already confirmed that:

  • Growers collect a substantial amount of data in order to support their business operations.
  • Growers have demonstrated that significant traceability information is available from the work arising during the on-farm production and post—harvest processes.

The challenge we have as an industry is to ensure that the data generated by growers is not only passed along the supply chain in alignment with the product being sold, but that the data is visible/readable at all points in the supply chain where that data has relevance. The starting point for such an objective is an underpinning common data standard, achieved in such a way that it adds value rather than generating additional costs.  For these reasons the United Fresh Traceability Project has worked with GS1 New Zealand in developing the Draft Traceability Guidelines.

United Fresh would like to hear your comments and feedback.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • How easy is it to follow the Draft Guidelines part of the document (section 2)?
  • What improvements do you suggest?
  • How will these Draft Guidelines help you review and implement effective interoperable traceability?
  • How interested would you be in participating in a webinar workshop?
  • How interested would you be in participating in a face-to-face workshop?
  • What other aspects of achieving effective interoperable traceability would you like to see included in the Final Guidelines?

Here are the ways you can provide your feedback: