IDENTIFICATION AND TRACEABILITY OF MEAT AND MEAT PRODUCTS

D. Yordanov1, G. Angelova2 University of Food Technology, Department of “Meat & Fish Technology”, Plovdiv, Bulgaria1 “Digest” Ltd., Design & Engineering, Plovdiv, Bulgaria 2

Introduction
With the expansion of global trade, computerization and communications, plain language descriptions of products and services, need to be replaced by identification and product tracing systems that are usable in all trade and industry sectors worldwide. Traceability is increasingly becoming standard across the agri-food industry, largely driven by recent food crises and the consequent demands for transparency within the food chain. Product traceability is the process of maintaining records of all materials and parts from purchasing to finished goods where a unique number identify a part, batch, or a finished product. Traceability in the food industry must aim to create a link between the various steps in the entire food chain, so-called “from farm to work”. These steps must cover animal production at the farm, processing in meat plants and other food premises, distribution to wholesalers and retailers and right through to the moment the food is placed on the consumer’s table. Tracing of animals can provide greater confidence in certification schemes, especially regarding their diseasefree status (6, 9). Traceability also forms an essential component of any risk management strategy and is a key requirement for post-marketing surveillance. Traceability provides the ability to identify and track a product or a component to its point of origin. The point of origin may be a particular lot or batch, production line and time frame, field, or
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supplier. Product traceability is very important to reliability. If a particular lot of a critical component is found to be defective after being used in product that is already sold, traceability provides a means of identifying the units for recall. The meat products require complete traceability (1, 9). The quality of meat products are determined by a complex of indexes – organoleptical, technological, hygienically. There are a lot of factors impacting on them. As results of the advance of meat science, new requirements about meat quality, nutritional and biological values and safety have arisen (13). Here are some of the benefits and solutions provided with product identification and tracing (6): • Procedures for identifying and tracing the product during all stages of production, delivery & installation. • Requires knowing what parts comprise the product, their specification, their status, etc. • Requires knowing the exact content of products that have been delivered to each customer so that the right customer service can be provided. • Helps to satisfy “Process Control”.

Tracing Methods
The increasing role of traceability leads to the development of a range of traceability concepts and technologies adapted to different industry need. These concepts and systems have been promoted through both private and public sector initiatives and thus have sought to address different needs;
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not surprisingly different concepts and technology solution have therefore evolved. The basic characteristics of traceability systems are similar, requiring product identification, product tracking and maintenance of information relating to products and its movement. Yet there remains a lack of clear consensus as to how traceability is achieved in practice. But the fundamentals of a traceability system require: the unique identification of the product (or batch) throughout its entire product history; the collection of information on the product and its movements; integrated information management . A key feature of any traceability system is the ability to clearly identify that which is to be traced. Ideally the product identifier should (9,10): - uniquely identify the unit or batch; - be secure; - be permanent; - retain identity throughout the product life-cycle; - be simple to read and capture identifying data; - not hinder its host. In practice no single identification system is likely to meet all these requirements and the choice of methods will ultimately be determined by specific need of the supply chain in question. A variety of options exists for tracing, applicable in the farms and meat industry (Table 1). In the live animal, ear tags and tattoos are cheap and easy. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and transponders are very expensive and can be unreliable. Subcutaneous transponders raise questions of welfare and the risk entering the food chain. Some elegant ideas such as injecting a unique antigen into the pigs from each farm to give readable antibody in the meat may find even less favour with the consumer. Inside the slaughter and processing plant, the simpler options include paper bar codes
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TABLE 1 Examples of some tracing methods (15) Visual ear tags RFID ear tags Live animal Bar Code Ear Tags Tattoos Antibodies by injection Paper bar codes RFID tags Slaughtering&Processing Batch markers Molecular bar codes Quantum dots Microwave radar Retail & distribution Machine readable codes Consumer Numerical codes Public access website

that can be read and reprinted at each point where a cut is divided into smaller portions. Batch can be identified by some form of “marker” or interruption that passes through all lines within the plant. More expensive options include RFID or smart credit card type systems (15)

EAN UCC numbering system
The European commission has recognized an urgent need to regain consumer confidence in beef products and therefore believes in fact tracing of beef products throughout the supply chain. The European Parliament has adapted a regulation on compulsory labeling of beef (EC) 1760/2000. This regulation aims to ensure a link between, on one hand, the identification of the carcass, quarter or pieces of beef and on the other hand individual animal or the group of animals from which they are derived. In particular the beef label must contain the following 6 mandatory elements in human readable format (3): - a reference number or reference code ensuring the link between the meat and the animal or a group of animals; - country of birth; - country of fattening; - country of slaughter; - country of cutting;

TABLE 2 Information exchange for Meat Identification and Labeling (12) Tracking Farm Slaughtering Cutting Selling Consuming

EAN/UCC Symbol: None Valid passport or health certificate Ear-tag number

Carcass ticket EAN/UCC Symbol: EAN/UCC 128 EANCOM (EDI), EAN/UCC 128 AI 01 GTIN AI 251 Ear tag № Additional: AI 422 – Country of birth AI 423 – Country of Fattening AI 7030 – Country of slaughter and approval № of the slaughterhouses

Processing label EAN/UCC Symbol: EAN/UCC 128 EANCOM (EDI), EAN/UCC 128 AI 01 GTIN AI 251 Ear tag № or AI 10 Batch № Additional: AI 422 – Country of birth AI 423 – Country of Fattening AI 7030 – Country of slaughter and approval № of the slaughterhouses AI 7031-39 Country of cutting halls and approval № of the cutting hall

Consumer label EAN/UCC Symbol: EAN-13 Only a GTIN which is the key to the article database during scanning at the point of sale

Tracing

- approval number of the slaughterhouses and cutting hall. Adopting the EAN/UCC System, a unique identification numbering system together with the use of UCC/EAN – 128 bar codes, provide unique and unambiguous identification for worldwide recognition and can improve the efficiency and exchanging information between supply chain participants. Item numbering is a system of identifying products by giving each one a unique number. Traceability requires the identification of all physical entities (locations) where fresh produce originates from and where it is packed and stored. These may include but are not limited to fields, growers, packers, carriers, wholesalers and retailers (10, 12).
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A system for identifying and tracing produce is needed so that sub-standard or unsafe produce can be recalled. It also enables the cause of problems to be identified and their recurrence prevented. The essential requirements for an effective system are: • Each batch of product must be clearly marked. • A record must be kept of the batch ID and the destination details. • Records of operations critical to food safety and quality must be maintained. The following table (Table 2) shows how product identification methods and records combine to form an effective system for product identification and traceability linking the stages of growing, packing and delivery to retailers (12).
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Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RF tags present a robust and potentially more cost effective solution than barcodes for tracking meat as they are unaffected by contamination and with an appropriate enclosure will withstand both the temperatures and chemicals used in cleaning and disinfection. Transponders, injected or embedded in ear tags for animal identification are remotely activated receiver-transmitters which use a short range and pulsed echo principle at approximately 150 Hz. These devices (external or injectable transponders) are primarily used for identification purposes, and transmit the information only on request. A basic system consists of the following three parts: - a temper proof device permanently attached or implanted, usually termed the identifier - an activating/reading device (both the electronic identifier and reader must have an antenna - software (electronic recording and transfer of data is far more accurate than information written by hand on whatever is available at the time and later transferred to a more permanent record) Transponders should be small, lightweight and robust, with an operational lifetime of the animal. The protective covering of the electronic identifier, usually bioglass for injectable transponders or plastic for ear tags, is also important. The casing must allow penetration of radio waves and must be sufficiently strong to withstand injection or tagging and to function throughout the life of the animal and during the slaughter. The device should remain the same location from application until slaughter of the animal. For injectable transponders, the protective covering should promote encapsulation by connective tissue to prevent migration of the transponders inside the body of animal. Identification by RF technology offers a number of distinct advantages over competing technologies, for example an unobstructed line of sight is not
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required, in contrast to bar code systems. Radio telemetry employs low frequency radio signals, typically 500 kHz or below, characterized by poor directional control, but good penetration of most materials that are not metallic or ferromagnetic. When pigs with implanted transponders are slaughtered, recovery of the transponder can be a problem. Transponders injected in the head of the animal do not remain with the carcass throughout the slaughter process. When the head is removed, the transponder is separated from the carcass. Hence, another method must be found to automatically link the carcass identity with identification of the hook that holds up the carcass before being cut into hams, loins, shoulders, etc. When the transponders are not injected properly, migration or loss may occur. This leads to a loss of certainty as to whether the transponder has been recovered. To ensure that transponders are recovered, special detectors must be installed at the end of slaughter line. A potential means of avoiding transponders in the food chain is the use of electronic ear tags. (5, 7, 10, 11). Experience to date has shown that conventional tagging; bar code labeling systems and RF tags can incorporate levels of error and may not have the sufficient precision. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) technology can overcome these difficulties by tracing animals animal by-products through their DNA code rather than an associate label.

DNA – based Traceability
The basic principle of DNA – based traceability is that each animal is genetically unique and that the animal’s own DNA code can be used to identify it and products derived from it. In simple terms, the product acts as its own label. This form of identification has a number of distinct advantages. The code is permanent, unique to the individual and remains intact throughout the life history of the animal or product.

Live Animal Tracking Breeder, Finisher, Transport, Slaughter DNA DNA Post-plant Tracking Distribution, Retail, Food Service In-plant Tracking Cutting, Processing

Relatively simple Inexpensive

Very complex Extremely expensive

Little extra cost

Figure. Role of DNA in the three major tracking steps that make up the pork value chain (15).

As a consequence there is no requirement to establish an external product labeling system. DNA taken from any point along the production chain can be matched with the history of the animal, providing the foundation for an individual animal traceability system (9). DNA tracking can link meat back to the farm of origin, bypassing the expensive step of tracking through the plant (Figure). DNA typing is very accurate, and relatively free of the human error compared to hand-labeling system. It can therefore be used to audit and verify other tracking systems that are vulnerable to human error. DNA can be detected in cooked as well as fresh product, and if necessary in stomach contents. The implementation of DNA-based traceability requires the collection of DNA samples (reference sample) from animals/carcass to enable the DNA code to be read. Samples can either be archived for subsequent analysis or analyzed and the resultant DNA profiles stored in a database along with information on animals origins. Samples of DNA can in theory be collected from any biological tissue. In practice the DNA sampling function should be cheap and relatively easy to perform, and should produce samples in a format suitable for laboratory analysis. There have been a number of innovations in the area of DNA sampling, most notably the combination of live animal identification (ear tagging) with sampling through DNA - sampling ear tags (2). Storing samples or their associated
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DNA profiles does not in itself constitute a traceability system, rather it provides trace back capability, which could potentially be used to locate the source of a product should a particular need arise. Probably the most critical technological developments leading to the uptake of DNA tracing concepts relate to DNA analysis technology; for a review of the relative merits of different DNA markers the reader is referred elsewhere (14). A number of genomics companies are developing DNA tracking systems for meat. The tracking systems exploit natural variation in DNA code, which is made up of just four units or nucleotides (A=adenine, C=cytosine, G = guanine, T = thymine). The systems fall into two types: The first uses restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs), and the second uses single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs or “snips”). RFLPs are fragments of DNA of varying length that can be separated by electrophoresis. They are created by an enzyme that cuts the DNA at a particular recognition site. They identify repetitive sequences of DNA that are naturally variable, so that for example some individuals may be “ACACAC-” while others are “-ACAC-“. The advantage is that many are known already. The disadvantage is that there may be many fragments of different lengths in a population, and that the different variants can therefore be difficult to identify without error.
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SNPs are single units of the code that naturally, so that some animals may be ‘A’ while others are “C”. SNPs are therefore like a digital code. SNPs represent the simplest type of genetic marker. As their name suggests, SNPs refer to genetic variation at the lowest possible level: the single base or nucleotide. The disadvantage is that SNP discovery is expensive, but SNP maps and libraries are being established. With their greater precision, SNPs are therefore the preferred solution for the long term (4, 7, 8, 10, 15, 20).

vate groups should avail themselves of these opportunities to improve public health and quality parameters for animal products, or be prepared to have their market opportunities limited. REFERENCES
1. Augsburg J.K. (1990) J. Anim. Sci., 68, 880-883. 2. Brem G. (2004) Dtsch. Tierarztl. Wochenschr., 111(7), 273-276. 3. Council of the European Communities (EC) (2003) Council Regulation N 1760/2000 of the European parliament and of the Council of 17 July establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labeling of beef products and repealing Council Regulation (EC) N 820/97, Off. J. Eur. Communities, L 268, 24-28. 4. Cunninghan E.P., Meghen C.M. (2001) Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz., 20, 491- 499. 5. Geers R., Puers B., Goedseels V., Wouters P. (1997) Electronic identification, monitoring and tracking of animals, CAB International, Wallingford, 156. 6. Jordanova A. (2004) Product Identification and Traceability, Operations Management, 345, MiniTutorial Assignment. 7. Klindtworth K., Klindtworth M., Wendl G. (2003) Electronic Identification and Moleculara markers for Improving the traceability of Livestock and Meat - (EID + DNA Tracing), 17-18.06.2003 JRC, Ispra, Italy. 8. Kwok P.Y. (2001) Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet., 2, 235-258. 9. Loftus R. (2005) Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz., 24(1), 231-242. 10. Madec F., Greers R., Vesseur P., Kjeldsen N., Blaha T. (2001) Rev. Sci. Tech. Off. Int. Epiz., 20, 523-537. 11. Robinson R. (1995) Electronic identification of animals and carcasses. In quality and grading of carcasses of meat animals, CRC press, New York, 201-213. 12. Traceability of beef (2003) Application of EAN.UCC Standards in implementing Regulation (EC) 1760/2000, European Meat Expert Group, EMEG. 13. Valkova - Jorgova K. (2003) The influence of the thermal treatment of meat products on the content of heterocyclic aroma amines, University of Food Technology Edition, 2, 329-333 (Bg). 14. Vignal A., Milan D., SanCristobal M., Eggen (2002) Genet. Selec. Evol., 34(3), 275-305. 15. Webb J. (2004) Advances in Pork Production, 15, p. 33.

Conclusions
Traceability is increasingly recognized as key risk mitigation and management tool, as well as a critical component of quality assurance in the agri-food industry. Within the livestock sector, animal identification a key requirement for traceability is becoming mandatory in many regions of the world. Effective quality systems require reliability, integrity and traceability. The production of safe food involves a chain of responsibility and every participant in the chain from ‘farm to fork’ has a role to play to ensure food is as safe as is practically possible. All farmers are food producers just the same as processors; wholesalers, caterers and retailers, and they play a vital role in the production of food which meets the highest standards of hygiene and safety. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link and farmers, as the first link in this chain, need to be aware of all relevant food safety issues and need to able to demonstrate that they operate safe production systems. The ‘farm to fork’ approach to food safety can only be successful if the whole process is transparent, with every stage monitored to ensure the maximum degree of traceability. The suppliers unable to meet these concerns may be denied access, irrespective of quality or price competitiveness. Technologies exist to maintain the identity of animals and animal products from birth to consumption. Public and priBiotechnol. & Biotechnol. Eq. 20/2006/1
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