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Technical Applications of Food Traceability
Dwiyitno1 Abstract Traceability is the ability to trace and follow a food, feed, food-producing animal or substance intended to be or expected to be incorporated into a food or feed, through all stages of production, processing and distribution (Regulation EC No. 178/2002). The main objective of a traceability system is to record the history of a product since the raw materials used in the production and follows the process through the distribution to the consumer. Basically, there are 2 important aspects regarding the implementation of traceability, which are tracking and tracing system. GS1 (formerly EAN-UCC) is the most code system used world wide for traceability purposes. In the present time, bar code symbols are used globally as data carriers but other technologies, such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will be applied in the future. Nevertheless, DNA-based method, PCR in particular, is the most reliable method and widely employed in tracing back product origin. Accuracy, speed, completeness, reliability, validation and verification of the systems are important consideration in implementing traceability system. Keywords: food traceability, barcodes, Radio Frequency Identification, polymerase chain reaction 1. Introduction Food safety is an important part of food quality as are tracking and tracing systems (traceability). There are several definitions for traceability. European Union (EU) defines traceability as the ability to trace and follow a food, feed, food-producing animal or substance intended to be or expected to be incorporated into a food or feed, through all stages of production, processing and distribution (Regulation EC No. 178/2002). While in the U.S. traceability is defined as the efficient and rapid tracking of physical product and traits from and to critical points of origin or destination in the food chain necessary to achieve specific food safety and, or, assurance goals (Golan et al., 2004). On the other hand, ISO 9001/2000 defines traceability as the ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration. Additionally, labeling and traceability of genetically modified food (GMF) are important issues that are considered in trade and regulation, particularly by EU legislation (Regulation EC No. 1829 & 1839/2003). The main objective of a traceability system is to record the history of a product since the raw materials used in the production and follows the process through the distribution to
MSc in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition (SefotechNUT) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
the consumer. Therefore, traceability system basically benefits to both producer and consumer. Traceability system enables fewer products to be recalled and brings important cost savings where the aim is to provide consumers with the high quality and safety products which are produced in a cost efficient way (Asensio et al., 2007). Furthermore, benefits of an efficient traceability system provide feedback on product quality to the supply chain and improve consumer confidence. Currently, traceability systems can be incorporated into information systems where consumers can get information on any product such as via electronic data interchange/EDI (EAN, 2002). The implementation of traceability has generated a significant amount of interest as there is no single system accepted globally. Therefore, it is important to distinguish between legal requirements and technologies required for providing a track and trace capability. The traceability system should enable efficient food safety management, but it is the responsibility of individual companies and supply chains to voluntarily take advantage of the capabilities it provides (EAN, 2002). The aim of this paper is to review the technical application of food traceability, particularly the common tracking techniques as well as analytical methods availability for tracing back purposes. 2. The implementation of food traceability Since 1 January 2005, the EU regulations oblige that all food and feed business operators to establish traceability systems, even when their customers do not require it. Traceability is also mandatory for beef in Japan, while exported beef in Australia, Argentina and Brazil is obliged to be traceable. Conversely, up to date traceability is voluntary in the U.S. (Souza-Monteiro & Caswell in Smith et al., 2005). In order to be able to trace products and retrieve related information, producers have to provide information and keep track of products during all stages of production, including primary production, processing, distribution, retailing, and consumer (Schwagele, 2005). Furthermore, traceability requires a verifiable method to identify growers, fields and produce in all its packaging and transport/storage activities at all stages of the supply chain. Basically, there are 2 important aspects regarding the implementation of traceability, which are tracking and tracing system (Figure 1). Product tracking is the capability to follow the path of a specified unit of a product through the supply chain, whereas product tracing is the capability to identify the origin of a particular unit and/or batch of product located within the supply chain by reference to records held upstream in the supply chain (EAN, 2002). The implementation and maintenance of the traceability regulations require an effective and 2
efficient system to track and trace back the products. Consequently, methodologies for the analyses of the food materials combined with information technology systems are essential to establish a working tracking and tracing system (Schwagele, 2005).
Provision of information downstream Tracking Primary Producer Processing Company
Tracing Provision of information upstream
Figure 1. Tracking and tracing system along food chain By the new EU regulation of traceability, the food processor is obliged to ensure that the food products meet the requirements of food law in which previously it was sufficient for a processor to be able to identify the source of an ingredient. This implies that the source of all materials involved can be traced and a processor must therefore be able to prove that his suppliers can provide full traceability. If any problem is suspected, tracking must go as far as the consumer (Schwagele, 2005). Traceability covers everything that happens to the products before, during and after the manufacturing, packaging, and distribution (Figure 2).
UPSTREAM SUPPLIERS Reception Production GLN4 SSCC1 GLN1 SSCC2 GTIN1 Lot A GTIN2 GTIN2 GTIN2 GTIN2 GTIN1 Lot B GTIN2 SSCC7 GTIN2 Original location Logistic unit of raw materials Logistic unit of Destination location final products GLN6 PRODUCTION Packaging DESTINATION Storage or Preparation for shipping SSCC5 GLN5 SSCC6
Trade item lots Grouping unit
Figure 2. Traceability link management (GS1, 2006) 3
3. Tracking application for traceability A product traceability system requires the identification of all the physical properties from which the product originates, including the location where it is originated, processed, packaged, and stocked (Regattieri et al., 2007). In order to keep track of items within a food supply chain it is crucial to identify items in each step of the chain. This application is done by data carriers as mark or tag that follows the item and can be read further down the supply chain. Data carriers carry an identifier which is a character based or alphanumeric code. There are 2 types of information are comprised within data carrier, i.e. primary and secondary identification (CDCT, 2007). Primary identification is used to determine the identification of a unit, by recognizing a set of features that can be considered characteristically unique for the concerned unit. The identification method can be DNA or other molecular based analytical methods. Nevertheless, secondary identification is an identifier to a unit, in a form that can be attached to a unit through or partly through the supply chain. The identifier can be thought of as a code, often as a number or an alpha-numeric string. In recent tracking and tracing systems, GS1 (formerly EAN/UCC) is universally accepted as an identification and communication system. Established by EU (1977), European Article Number (EAN) International and the global partner organization for the USA and Canada, the Uniform Code Council (UCC), today have more than 1,000,000 member companies in over 145 countries. Not only to identify goods, the code system also provides for additional information such as best before date, serial number, location number and batch number to be shown in a bar coded form. These identifying numbers are also used in electronic commerce (GS1, 2007). The GS1 system consists of three components (GS1, 2007): (1) Identification numbers; used to identify a product (Global Trade Item Number-GTIN), location (Global Location Number-GLN), logistic unit (Serial Shipping Container Number-SSCC), service or asset (Global Returnable Asset Identifier-GRAI); (2) Data carriers; the barcodes or radio frequency tags used to represent these numbers. The data carriers vary according to the level of information required or the space available; and (3) Electronic messages; the means of connecting the physical flow of goods with the electronic flow of information. These technologies have been used in meat traceability, providing a robust tracking system for most elements of the meat chain (Electronic Data Interchange/EDI) (Schwagele, 2005). Table 1
illustrates the traceability practices in producing meat and meat product. Typically, traceability is employed since animal production, slaughtering, processing to distribution. Table 1. A process line of traceability of meat and meat products
SLAUGTERHOUSE 1st CUTTING HALL nth.. CUTTING HALL PROCESSING INDUSTRY RETAIL
Technical piece label for groupings of items & pallets Bar code: GS1-128
Technical piece label 1. Meat from one animal Idem carcass label, but Cutting date, Best before date Country of cutting Approval nr. of cutting hall 2. Meat from more than one animal GTIN, Net weight Cutting/Best before date (optional), Lot nr. Label for groupings of trade items Idem technical piece variable count Pallet label Uniform mono/multilot pallet SSCC GTIN content of the pallet Cutting/ Best before date variable count Net/Gross weight Lot nr. (only for monolot pallets) Mixed pallet SSCC + Gross weight + data identical for the whole pallet + other info via EDI
Meat product label on bulk item, groupings of trade items & pallets
Retail trade item labels for pure meat & meat products
NO bar code
Accompanying document of the animal SANITEL number (ear tag)
Bar code: GS1-128
Carcass label GTIN Net weight (optional) Country of birth Country of fattening Country of slaughter Approval nr. Slaughterhouse Slaughtering date (optional) SANITEL number
Bar code: GS1-128 Bar code: GS1-13
Label on a bulk item GTIN Net weight (if variable weight ) Processing date (optional) Best before date (optional) Lot or SANITEL nr. Label on pure (beef) meat GS1-13 + info in text format Label on meat products GS1-13 + info in text format (according to the rules of minced meat, meat preparations & food products) WHOLESALER / TRANSPORT OPERATOR GS1-13 for retail trade items GS1-128 for other packages Same indication requirements as the previous phase, unless other agreements with the client.
Label for groupings of trade items Idem bulk item variable count Pallet label Uniform mono/multilot pallet SSCC GTIN content of the pallet Processing/’Best before’ date variable count Net/ Gross weight Lot nr. (only for mono-lot pallets) Mixed pallet SSCC Gross weight data identical for the whole pallet other info via EDI
Source: EAN (2002).
3.1. Tagging Tagging is the most traditional way of tracking. Originally, tagging is practiced to identify rearing animal such as cattle, goat and sheep, particularly to protect from the theft and exchange in pasture area. Recently, tagging is also beneficial for production practice verification. Right identification may ascertain authentication of permitted production practices (e.g., grass-fed, free-range, raised/handled humanely) versus prohibited one (e.g., antibiotics, hormonal growth promotants, fed animal by-products) during rearing of the animals (Smith et al., 2005). There are various types of animal tagging, most of which are ear mark, neck tags, body mark and tail mark. Application of RFID technology by implanting a chip into the body is the advanced technique employed for animal tagging (Regattieri et al., 2007). 3.2. Alphanumerical codes Alphanumerical codes are a sequence of numbers and letters of various sizes placed on the labels of the product or on its packaging (Regattieri et al., 2007). The design phase of this system is very simple and economic, but its management is so cost as requires significant human resources for code writing and reading manually. Another limitation of alphanumerical code is no specific standards defined and they are generally owner codes. Consequently, the performance is not particularly good while the risk of data integrity corruption is also high. Typically, alphanumerical code is employed for internal traceability system. 3.3. Bar codes Nowadays, bar codes are the most widely employed as tracking technique. Generally, bar codes contain a series of numbers reflecting type of product and manufacturer. EANUCC, now known as GS1, is the most bar coding standard employed worldwide. The fundamental principle of bar coding system is an unambiguous numbering schema used to identify goods or services throughout any supply chain. Using automatic data capture techniques, this numbering system can be applied successfully at every stage of production or transformation and distribution (GS1, 2007). Several types of barcode are established by the different providers. The most common bar code provided by GS1 standard are linear, stacked (multi rows), and 2 dimensional (Data Matrix) (Figure 3). Typically, a linear bar code consists of a series of vertical parallel and adjacent (dark-colored) bars and (light-colored) spaces. Predetermined width patterns for bars 6
and spaces are used to encode and represent actual data in the bar code. This data can be the GTIN itself or any additional information attributed to the item. A bar code reader (scanner) decodes the width patterns of the bars and spaces. The combination of bar code labels and scanners allows real-time data capture (EAN, 2002).
linear code (GS1-13)
Stacked code (Databar) Figure 3. Different types of bar codes
2D code (Data matrix)
Linear barcodes is the simplest and therefore the most extensively used. GS1 linear barcode varies in the number of identity code. The most common bar codes are GS1-8, 12, 13 or 14 for retail packaging and GS1-128 for storage and shipping purposes. GS1-13 consists of 13 digit of GTIN while GS1-128 comprises 18 GTIN code and such additional information. Beside GTIN, information possible on GS1-128 bar codes are either lot number, best before date, price, net weight or country of origin (Figure 4). In term of beef labeling, for instance, the label must contain the following mandatory elements: (1) reference number or reference code ensuring the link between the meat and the animal or a group of animals; (2) country of birth; (3) country of fattening; (4) country of slaughter; (5) country/countries of cutting; and (6) approval number of the slaughterhouse and cutting hall. The GTIN itself does not contain any information about the product; it is just a world wide unique and unambiguous identification number (EAN, 2002). Viande Belgique N.V CARCASS bovine category XYZ Weight: 425.8 kg
GTIN : 95487722000255 Born in : Belgium Slaughtered in: Belgium Reference number : BE51487721 Fattened in : Germany, Austria Approval nr slaughterhouse: UD1098H
Figure 4. An example of GS1-128 carcass label (EAN, 2002) 7
A stacked barcode contains between 2 and 8 rows, each separated by a separator bar. Each row contains 16 words (which are generated from character pairs) and a start and stop character. The last row also contains the number of rows in the symbol and the check digit characters. There are 2400 possible words which can be generated from each pair of characters. Symbols with less than 7 rows comprise 2 check digits in the final row. Symbols with 7 or 8 rows contain 3 check digits in the final row. A numeric mode allows 5 digits to be encoded in the same space as three alphanumeric characters, so offering a higher density. On the other hand, two dimensional code is made up of square modules arranged within a finder pattern. Data Matrix is known as 2D code provided by GS1 with symbols may be square or rectangular. Data Matrix symbols can encode the entire ASCII character set and uses multiple encoding modes which have the higher combination capacity i.e. 3100 digits for double digit, 2300 characters (alphanumeric text), 1550 bytes (byte values) (EAN, 2002). 3.4. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) The limitation of bar code tracking technique is the requirement to keep the bar code in the proper way in order to be read by the scanner device precisely. Damage and unclean bar are often problems on the successful application of bar code, particularly in farm purposes (Schwagele, 2005). RFID technology may overcome this problem by using radio signals instead of line of sight for identification, and can be integrated into a prototype recording system. RFID technology is known more sensitive than bar code. Studies indicate that the RFID achieve successful reads over 98% of the time, with unprotected and reused tags (Watts et al., 2003). On the contrary, scanners can operate with a 90% success rate where contamination levels are kept below 10% and barcodes are kept clean and undamaged (Schwagele, 2005). Recently, RFID tags have been employed as individual track for cattle in Japan, Canada and South Korea (Smith et al., 2005). In retail companies, RFID technology is has been used such as in Walmart (USA), Tesco (UK) and Metro group (Germany). RFID tags are often foreseen as the promising tracking technology to replacing barcodes in the future. RFID tag data capacity is big enough that any tag will have a unique code since the product may be individually tracked as it moves from one location to another location. This may help companies to combat theft and other forms of product losses (Golan et al., 2004). Moreover, the tracing back of products is an important feature that gets well supported with RFID tags containing not only a unique identity of the tag but also the serial number of the object. This may help companies to cope with quality deficiencies and 8
resulting product recalls. However, product identifiers (tags) are not currently in widespread use, and are expensive in comparison to the barcode. The storage of data associated with tracking items will require many terabytes on all levels. Problems on penetration also arise with respect to metals and other conductive media (Foodtrace, 2004). 3.5. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is the system of exchange of the data among trading partners via electronic media. EDI offers a more efficient and reliable way of communicating large amounts of data through the supply chain (GS1, 2007). Traditionally, documents regarding product identity for shipment are delivered via paper documents. This conventional system is known less effective, time consuming as well as more costly. Through EDI system, the documents, including product identity, could be delivered via electronic means which is faster and more effective as the data is integrated automatically with the existing online system (Figure 5). Implementing EDI system is also beneficial for logistic management as it automatically monitors the input-output item stock. As traceability requires a good management system of record keeping a long whole steps of chain, implementation of EDI system provide significant benefit in either tracking or tracing purposes by means of computer to computer system.
Figure 5. Traceability link management (GS1, 2007)
4. Tracing methods of product origin With respect to traceability along the full supply chain, particularly for meat and meat products, needs such administrative implication on tracing systems. Several aspects are importance to be involved, such as information on animal species, origin, authenticity, age, composition and production system (Schwagele, 2005). Specifically, Regulation (EC) 2065/2001 for example, traceability on fish product requires the following information: species of origin (fish species), geographical origin (fish from different regions), and method
of production (wild or farmed, organic or intensive) (Moretti et al., 2003). Initially, products are traced back for particular purposes such as product recall and investigating complaints. The Sanitel system including an automatic treatment of data related to animal identification and registration is the general way to assure animal origin. Moreover, the Sanitel system includes an individual identification of the animal by a number present on an earring tag. The main disadvantage of this system is that the traceability stopped at the slaughterhouse. It is therefore almost impossible to link a piece of ear tag with the distributed meat. Moreover, the administrative traceability is not unfailing, the lost of documents and the risk of cheating are potentially occurred (Goffaux, et al., 2005). Therefore, it is necessary to have reliable methods, which allow a fast and unequivocal identification of animal species. Several techniques are available for the tracing analysis, particularly for food authenticity. DNA-based and protein-based detection methods are the main technique employed. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the most DNA-based method employed, while enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) works on protein-based method. In addition, new methodologies are developed, including the use of microarrays, mass spectrometry, and surface plasmon resonance (Miraglia et al., 2004; Peres et al., 2007). 4.1. DNA-based methods DNA-based techniques have demonstrated as fast, cheap and straightforward gene identification (Mackie et al., 1999; Weder et al., 2001). PCR has been developed into a key technology for species identification in foods and feeds. PCR-RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) has been used for the species identification of food relevant animals and plants. Random amplified polymorphic DNA-PCR (RAPD-PCR) as well as assays based on single strand conformation pattern (SSCP) were developed for species and variety-specific identification of different animals and plants (Rehbein et al., 1999; Weder, 2002). The latest speciation techniques are the analysis based on mitochondrial DNA and ribosomal RNA (Pineiro et al., 1999). DNA-based techniques have the advantage that one does not need a standard for each tissue, because almost all the cells in an individual have the same genomic DNA. Additionally, real time quantitative PCR (QPCR) has been widely applied for the DNA amplification due to simplicity, specificity and sensitivity, chiefly for the restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) technique (Weder et al., 2001). QPCR is the most reliable technique for the quantification of genetically modified organisms (Schwagele, 2005). 10
DNA sequence information can also be used for species identification. The development of modern molecular biology techniques including various sequencing techniques has led to a large number of base sequences (Schwagele, 2005). Unfortunately, not all of them are available in the various DNA databases. For species identification, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is the most widely used target molecule. The main reason to use mtDNA for this kind of analysis is the availability of numerous sequences in databases and the high genetic variability of mtDNA, which allows sophisticated primer design for sequencing. DNA sequencing is theoretically the most informative and precise technique but requires samples consisting only of a single species. Sequencing allows species identification without reference material if the generated sequence is available in a database. 4.2. Protein-based methods Proteins (enzymes, myoglobin, etc.) have been widely used as species markers. Applicable techniques include separation of water-soluble proteins by starch, polyacrylamide or agarose gel electrophoresis, isoelectric focusing (IEF), and two-dimensional
electrophoresis (Pineiro, et al., 1999; Martinez, 2007). Highly resolved water-soluble protein patterns can be used to differentiate genetically close-related species. The limit of detection of gel electrophoretical methods varies between 0.1% and 1% and depends on the visualization procedure of the proteins bands. Immunological techniques, on the other hand, like ELISA performed on the solid surface of microwell plates are using suitable target proteins for analysis. A qualitative detection of animal species is possible and the limit of detection depends upon their content in meat products (pork 61%; poultry and beef 62%; sheep 65%) (Schwagele, 2005). Notably, proteomics can be used to differentiate species, breeds, and varieties by their specific protein pattern. 5. Considerations on implementing traceability system An efficient and effective system of traceability can significantly reduce operating costs as well as increase productivity. At the same time, such a system provides product safety elements and thus makes consumers safer. In order to establish product traceability system, particularly on food traceability system, there are 4 fundamental concepts must be taken in account (Regattieri et al., 2007). Accordingly, those aspects are product identification, data to
trace, product routing, and traceability tools (Figure 6). The implementation of traceability system, thereby, should consider to the concerned product properties.
DATA TO TRACE
dimensions volume weight surface conditions shortness perishability packaging cost life cycle length bill of material structure
number typology degree of detail dynamism data storage requirements confidentiality & publicity checks & alarms
production cycle activities lead times equipments manual operations automatic operations movement systems storage systems
compatibility vs product compatibility vs process
N° of data readings N° of data writings
degree of automation
data accuracy data reliability
cost of system
Figure 6. Framework for product traceability (Regattieri et al., 2007) In practice, different technical approaches can be used for tracking system. The data accuracy and reliability required can guide the selection of the traceability tool. Accordingly, cost is a relevant factor and so must also be taken into account. Final choice must consider the degree of compatibility with the product and the production process, the degree of automation supported by the supply chain analyzed, and in general knowledge along the supply–production chain (Regattieri et al., 2007). Traceability system has to describe extensively to which the origin of all the raw materials used and the distribution of the finished products can be defined precisely and thereby could be identified unambiguously. Additionally, traceability system has to be able to identify which hazards are focused in the system as well as the specific time of the tracking-tracing practices (online, hours, days or weeks). Therefore, aaccuracy, speed, completeness, reliability, validation and verification of the systems are important considerations in implementing traceability system (GS1, 2007). Bar codes (mainly the GS1 system) are currently widespread used in tracking system as they offer several significant advantages. With an integrated system, the process of entering information into retailers’ systems is automated so when new information is logged into the system by the producer, it is added in real time to all systems across a network. With such systems, anyone along the chain can track inputs, production, and inventory by an array of characteristics (Golan et al., 2004). However, RFID technology is known as the promising technology due to the higher accuracy and efficiency on identifying items compare to bar codes (Watts et al., 2003). By the time of reducing cost of production, RFID technology will be eventually replacing bar codes technology. 12
6. Conclusion 1. The benefits of traceability system on food production and distribution will be achieved only if implemented comprehensively within all steps of food supply chain. 2. At the present time, bar code symbols are used globally as data carriers, but other technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will be applied widely in the future. 3. DNA-based method, PCR in particular, is the most reliable method and widely employed in tracing product origin. 4. GS1 (formerly EAN-UCC) is the most code system used world wide for traceability purposes. 5. Accuracy, speed, completeness, reliability, validation and verification of the systems are important considerations in implementing traceability system.
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