CSIRO signs Australia up to IFT Global Food Traceability Center

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CSIRO has become the first Australian member of the Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC)

A researcher conducts tests at the Food and Environmental Laboratory, IAEA Seibersdorf, Austria.
A researcher conducts tests at the Food and Environmental Laboratory, IAEA Seibersdorf, Austria.
IAEA Imagebank

The GFTC, launched in 2013 by the US-based Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), 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,  it can significantly reduce the costs if it does happen,” Dr Kari Gobius, CSIRO’s research leader for food safety, said.

“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.

E. coli bacteria, colourised, under an electron microscope: by joining Australia up to the IFT's global food traceability network, CSIRO hopes to help us will help us respond effectively to food safety breakdowns such as 2011's e. coli outbreak.
E. coli bacteria, colourised, under an electron microscope: by joining Australia up to the IFT's global food traceability network, CSIRO hopes to help us will help us respond effectively to food safety breakdowns such as 2011's e. coli outbreak.
NIAID, Flickr CC, wwwflickrcomphotosniaid

As a member of the GFTC, CSIRO will be able to provide Australian industry with the latest research in the area, develop traceability knowledge here and and adapt outcomes for Australian conditions.

At a forum chaired by Australian Institute of Food Science & Technology (AIFST) Chair and President Dr Anne Astin and hosted by the National Safe Food Food Forum, CSIRO and Food Innovation Australia (FIA) on April 28, Australian and international experts in food traceability met with Dr Will Fisher, the then-Vice President of IFT and Executive Director of the GFTC.

“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, RFID and tags,” Dr Fisher said.

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 urgent need for industry to step up its efforts to aid in traceability.

Food in a refrigerator: when food safety outbreaks occur, global traceability is vital to enable timely recalls.
When food safety outbreaks occur, global traceability is vital to enable timely recalls.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

“In the world of food safety, we can no longer learn from our mistakes,” Dr Gobius 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.

For more information, contact CSIRO’s Pamela Tyers on 03 9731 3484 or at food-innovation@csiro.au.

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