Pilot project advances traceability

In step with growing consumer demand for transparency in the seafood supply chain, a pilot project in Europe is using RFID tagging technology to track fish and, as a result, boost retail seafood sales.

Participants in eTrace, part of the wider European platform SafeFoodEra, claimed to have tracked fish from fishing boats in Simrishamn, Sweden, through the supply chain to a retailer in Gothenburg.

According to technology firm TraceTracker, a participant in the eTrace project that includes academia, government and industry, the pilot's main objective is to test the feasibility of using an electronic product code standard called EPCIS in seafood supply chains. Retailers involved in the multi-stakeholder project directly accessed data and maps for each fish, detailing where the fish was caught and how it arrived at the store.

For Peter Kallstrom, a retailer in Gothenburg, feeding the consumer such accurate traceability data unlocked sales.

"Instead of selling a few kilos a day, I sold more than 150 kilos over 4 days," he said.

The retailer posted a map next to cod detailing where the fish was caught and processed locally.

"The map told the history that consumers have been waiting to hear, namely that the fish is local," said Kallstrom.

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, omnipresent in supply-chain management, uses radio waves and, generally, an RFID tag to track a product through each step of the supply chain, from production to processing to distribution to selling.

Electronic traceability systems based on software applications and automatic data capture systems are believed to be "the most effective solution for providing relevant information to the food industry and consumers in a fast and effective way," said eTrace participants.

eTrace is setting out to specify, develop, and evaluate an electronic traceability system where different information sources related to food safety and suitable enterprise management systems are integrated with Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS), led by EPCglobal, a subscriber-driven organization set up to create global standards for the EPCglobal network.

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