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Farm to fork traceability for the fruit sector


In less than a month new EU food hygiene regulations will come into effect, forcing farmers, processors and distributors to definitively implement farm to fork traceability. E-FRUITRACE has validated a Europe-wide Internet-based solution for the fruit sector.

“From January 1, 2006 traceability will cease to be an added-value element in the agricultural industry and will become obligatory because of the introduction of the new EU legislation,” explains Pedro de la Peña, the technical manager of E-FRUITRACE at Agromare in Spain. “All of the actors involved in the agri-food sector therefore need comprehensive and compatible solutions to allow them to track produce.”

Aimed at the fruit sector, which represents around 7.3 per cent of Europe’s final agricultural production, the E-FRUITRACE IST project validated a system that overcomes the key problem facing the implementation of Europe-wide traceability: the incompatibility of different platforms used by different actors in different countries.

“Rather than design a whole new system, we created Internet-based tools to unify the variety of traceability systems that have been used by agricultural cooperatives, processors and distributors in different member states,” De la Peña says. “The project resulted in a de facto standard for fruit traceability.”

Trials last year with end-user cooperatives in Spain, Italy and France validated the system, which permits efficient and cost-effective farm to fork tracking of produce. Because E-FRUITRACE can be used in combination with existing traceability solutions, the investment required on the part of users is relatively small compared to implementing new tracking systems. In addition, it allows information to be exchanged quickly and easily up and down the food distribution chain, something that was received very positively by end users in the trials.

“With the system comprehensive data covering everything from where the fruit was grown, what fertilizers were used, where it was stored and what trucks transported it can be easily accessed and distributed between different actors,” De la Peña notes.

Such comprehensive information exchange is necessary if traceability is to fulfil its goal of ensuring food safety while letting consumers know precisely what they are eating and assuaging their concerns surrounding such issues as intensive farming techniques, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and transgenic produce.

With the new EU legislation soon to come into force “the market for traceability solutions has certainly become much more active of late,” the technical manager says, noting that the project partners are currently in the process of commercialising the system among agricultural cooperatives and through regional governments and institutions that are active in the sector.

Tara Morris | alfa
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