KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, US — In the United States, the traceability of food and feed were brought to the forefront by the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011. The Bioterrorism Act was initiated after the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequent terroristic threats to secure the nation’s food supply chain. The key element of the Bioterrorism Act was the method of “one up and one down” or accounting for where feed ingredients were received or where they ultimately ended up, initiating the early requirements of traceability.
Following the Bioterrorism Act, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) enacted FSMA in 2011 to address the concerns for foodborne illnesses. In this process, the FDA shifted the focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it. The FDA created seven major rules to implement FSMA and ensure the safety of the food supply is a shared responsibility among many different points in the global supply chain for both human and animal food.
Of these seven rules, the Current Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals regulation, more commonly known as the Preventive Controls for Animal Food, was the new regulation affecting feed manufacturers. This regulation required animal food facilities registered with the FDA to implement a written plan that identifies hazards and outlines appropriate preventive controls with the aim of ensuring safe manufacturing, processing, packing and holding of animal food products in the United States.
This allows individuals to utilize Current Good Manufacturing Practices, prerequisite programs and preventive controls to meet these goals. One key opportunity to advance animal food safety in the animal food manufacturing industry is traceability. Traceability is defined by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the ability to discern, identify and follow the movement of a food or substance intended to be or expected to be incorporated into a food, through all stages of production, processing, and distribution.
Let’s examine the potential opportunities for traceability in the feed industry.
Traceability can be used to enhance the manufacturing process by monitoring the movement of product from its origin to the final customer. This presents the opportunity to control and avoid problems that may occur during processing, which plays a key role in the prevention process. Although traceability helps in meeting the regulatory requirements, it is also a preventive measure for companies against litigation and recalls.
As feed manufacturers work to advance the traceability process, there are a wide array of ways to accomplish these goals, from paper records to sophisticated bar codes. Regardless the method, it does come at a cost. However, the increasing demand for regulatory requirements continue to push manufacturers toward automation that allows for immediate traceability review and eliminates common errors.
Having improved access to digital records will continue to enhance traceability. Core areas of innovation surrounding traceability include data tracking and management, data interoperability, and identity preservation. The food industry has initiated the use of blockchain to lead to improvements in food safety and traceability. Blockchain is defined as “a shared, distributed ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network.” Therefore, blockchain provides a viable technology to ensure traceability of feed ingredients.
However, the use of bulk commodities within the feed industry brings about significant challenges of using blockchain.
The mixing of raw commodities from multiple farms into a bulk bin make it impossible to track the products continuously in the subsequent transportation and distribution phases. Research teams are continuing to work on developing modeling techniques to address these issues. In addition to challenges with bulk ingredients, implementation of blockchain requires 100% participation and accuracy for end-to-end transparency for both bulk and packaged products. The incentive to make these commitments within the feed industry is very minimal compared to other industries that obtain very clear economic incentives. However, the pet food sector has the greatest opportunity to capture the economic benefits from using blockchain.
Successful implementation of blockchain into the feed industry will require consensus among the industry for standards and methods of data collection and sharing. The success of these applications will depend on the reputability and accuracy of the data included in the blocks that are recorded in the chain. For more information about the potential use of blockchain in the feed industry, visit https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/219609#
Traceability system components
For traceability to be successful, it is key to collect and track information throughout the process. The key components of a traceability system include data elements, unique identifiers, sensor technology and distributed ledger technology.
Data elements are needed to capture specific data through the traceability system that have been identified. Unique identifiers are assigned to individual products to allow for tracking along the supply chain. This includes RFID tags or barcodes. Sensor technology optimize real-time tracking of identified data elements through supply chain and enables automated data capture. Lastly, the distributed ledger technology enables easier aggregation, integration, analysis and sharing of data (World Economic Forum).
There are a variety of technologies that are becoming available to the market to accurately collect the needed information and achieve these components. However, integrating information gathered from sensors and artificial intelligence or predictive processing and blockchain is a crucial step needed to lead the innovation in traceability for the feed industry.
Several types of sensors are currently being used in the industry to collect data. However, the key component is integrating them with the feed manufacturing process and processing the information in useful ways.
It becomes more complex when implementing these technologies globally when you consider the number of people in rural communities that lack access to electricity and internet.
There have been several initiatives and pilots throughout the food sector that demonstrate promise in the advancement of traceability. Partnerships within agriculture organizations and the private food sector have been developed to preform multistakeholder collaborations. A large source of funding has been received to support startups based on traceability solutions. Also, civil society organizations are advancing the traceability agenda with focus on achieving environmental and social sustainability goals (World Economic Forum).
The European Regulations have additional requirements related to labeling and traceability of products that consist of or contain GMOs. Therefore, product that consists of or contains GMOs must be labeled and traceable in each stage of production, processing, and distribution.
In addition to GMO label requirements, different countries and markets require feed to be authentic in terms of species content. Requirements can be monitored via ELISA, qualitative PCR, quantitative real-time PCR, and sequencing of mitochondrial DNA. Therefore, genetic traceability has become a useful part of more advanced monitoring systems. This has become a fast-growing tool in feed control and traceability. Although these advancements in genomics provide opportunities to increasing monitoring, data management and tracking tools are still needed.
Traceability in the feed industry provides a key opportunity to advance the safety and precision of livestock and pet food production. It can be used as a tool to monitor the origin of ingredients all the way through the complete feed delivered to the consumer. If implementation is done correctly, it is possible to control and also avoid problems that may occur during feed manufacturing. The future success of traceability will rely on innovations in technology and participation, which the feed industry is currently moving toward.
Chad Paulk is an associate professor of feed science and management in the Department of Grain Science and Industry at Kansas State University. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.