The Importance of food safety and traceability

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BY DR CH’NG SOO EE

AFTER the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone’s order of life was disrupted. However, food is the most important thing for all man, and no matter how life is affected, they cannot do without the most basic need: food.

When it comes to food safety, everyone may be particularly concerned about the recently hyped up “salmon” incident. This pandemic has forced us to reconsider the issue of food safety and question our traditional food industry’s operating methods; but it also revealed new trends, reshaping our concepts of food safety and food supply sustainability, and even reformulating innovative ideas.

Mechanism to trace food supply chain

In the food processing industry, it is important to ensure the health of all workers in the production line and supply chain and avoid any possible cross-contamination. Food manufacturers especially those exporting food should strengthen the environmental monitoring program in the production line, implement good manufacturing practices (GMP) and hazardous critical control points (HACCP) to avoid any possible international food supply chain crisis. The key to this is the traceability of the food supply chain from upstream agricultural products to downstream processing to consumers’ tables. Food traceability has increasingly become an important bridge for building trust between food brands and customers. In fact, an effective traceability system can also curb food fraud cases. If every ingredient in the food can be traced successfully, then consumers will be able to understand the origin of the food more accurately. After all, food ingredients can come from all over the world, and consumers have the right to make choices.

At the same time, when a sudden food safety incident breaks out, the traceability system can ensure that the food is quickly recalled. Food traceability is regarded as the best way to track the status of every link in the supply chain. From crops to manufacturers to wholesalers and retailers, traceability increases the transparency of the food supply chain and minimizes risks. The food traceability system also allows brands to have a comprehensive understanding and more complete control at each stage of the supply chain. If there is a problem at any point in time, the merchant can trace back to the history of the product and find out the specific fault, and take corrective measures before it is too late, so that customers are confident in the authenticity and quality of the product.

Rigid monitoring

The monitoring of food safety risks, the implementation of standardized and clean agricultural production, and the in-depth evaluation of agricultural product quality and safety risks, especially focusing on the detection of pesticide residues and heavy metal contamination, cannot be ignored. It is very important to guide and supervise the origin of upstream food and improve the market access system for agricultural products. In addition to standard agricultural operations with motorized plants and the establishment of a full-process traceability collaboration mechanism for edible agricultural products, agri-food companies should take a more active attitude and participate in and improve the unified food safety supervision system. Whether it is policy implementation or relative spontaneity, learn more and prepare first.

No room for compromise

Traceability systems in the food industry and emerging technologies such as blockchain make product tracking easy. Perhaps these new technologies may change the rules of the game in traditional industries, but what is worth thinking about during the pandemic is that in public health emergencies, with effective traceability and advanced detection technology, digitalized food systems will be a more agile and more resilient food system. This is the change that the food industry should adopt, and it is also the path to the future. No matter what challenges you are facing, as a food industry player, you must never compromise the safety of your food supply to your consumers.

NOTE: The author is Chief Executive Officer, CAIQTEST (China Academy of Inspection and Quarantine) Innovation Malaysia Service Center. She is also the Coordinator in Malaysia for China-ASEAN Joint Laboratory of Traditional Medicine, Invited Foreign Expert by Department of Science and Technology, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous in 2020 and Honorary Professor by APEC Research Institute as well as  Industrial Expert Panellist for Food Science Program, (Diploma and Degree) Tunku Abdul Rahman University College, TARUC and Industry Expert Panellist for Food Science Diploma Program for UKM.