Knowing where your food comes from is not just about the story behind your food but is a critical part of traceability: Where was it raised? Who handled it? Where did it go from there? All of these things are essential to understanding the food production process and traceability.
The discovery of horsemeat in processed meat products is a good example of how detached we’ve become from knowing where our food comes from. Both the sourcing of the raw materials from which burgers, meat sauces and ready meals were manufactured and the tangled web of wholesale and retail distribution that has taken them right across Europe demonstrate just how complex some food chains actually are.
Food regulators like Safe Food need to be able to trace where food comes from and where it ends up. In other words, we need to know the beginning, middle and end of the food production and processing story and be able to share that story with consumers.
What is food traceability?
The ability to trace food through all stages of production, processing and distribution is important not only to food businesses but to the consumer as well. Traceability ensures that food can be tracked one step forward and one step back from all points throughout the supply chain. For example:
- your local butcher keeps records of where meat and supplies have been sourced from and sold onto;
- the stamp on eggs provides a unique identifier of the farm that it was produced on; and
- a commercial fisherman keeps records of who he supplies his fish to e.g. a restaurant.
Why is traceability needed?
Rapid response to a non-conformance or recall event is critical in protecting public health and safety. The ability to follow a product through all stages of the food chain is vital to a consumer’s safety. Not only is it prudent for a food business to have traceability systems in place, it is a regulatory requirement for food businesses to be able to track and trace product at least one step back and one step forward.
In other words, when a potential food safety problem is identified an effective traceability system can help isolate and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.
Our role as the regulator
We work with other government agencies to monitor food safety and respond to food safety incidents in the areas of primary production and processing. Our aim is to promote and protect food safety in Queensland so that consumers have confidence in the food produced in this State.
Our in-depth knowledge of primary industries and our ongoing dialogue with industry associations and key businesses help us to respond quickly and to reach the right people in situations where there is a need to trace or recall food products.
In responding to food safety emergencies, we work closely with government and industry partners to ensure all participants in the food cycle understand the importance of keeping our food safe and are prepared to act quickly to keep it that way.