NIFSI project to improve traceability

Nov. 15, 2011
Contact Information:

Steven Ricke, Center for Food Safety
479-575-4678 / sricke@uark.edu

Dave Edmark, Agricultural Communication Services
479-575-6940 / dedmark@uark.edu

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FAYETTEVILLE Ark. – Researchers at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Center for Food Safety are participating in a federally-supported project to develop a traceability and marketing system for food products that provides a method to limit and remedy food safety outbreaks and biosecurity braches. The system would be internet based and driven by stakeholders.

Arkansas is participating in a Whole Chain Traceability Consortium with Oklahoma State University, the lead institution; Michigan State University and North Dakota State University. The project is supported by a grant of $600,000 through the National Integrated Food Safety Initiative (NIFSI) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Arkansas investigators in the project are Steven Ricke, director of the Center for Food Safety, and Philip Crandall, professor of food science. They will work directly with retailers and beef processors to identify appropriate stakeholders and will then gather information about the traceability system to share.

Product traceability systems have traditionally been burdened with disadvantages such as delays and lack of privacy. Recent research has suggested that whole-chain traceability can limit the economic loss of food safety outbreaks.

The NIFSI project aims to create a system that will enable producers and other stakeholders to control privacy in accessing data. Tracing food through a supply chain usually depends on the sharing of product information with competitors, so assurance of privacy controls would be essential to encourage participation.

"A stakeholder-driven and trusted system allows forward thinking industries a means of rapidly communicating with regulatory agencies and consumers," the consortium's proposal said. "From a traceability standpoint, the goal is to provide the necessary information needed to prove a company's or industry's products are safe in a rapid manner that will ultimately save market share and maintain consumer confidence in these products."