The National Traceability Project is well underway in Australia. So, what is it? And why does it matter for Australian manufacturers?
No longer is traceability something for only the most forward-thinking manufacturers to worry about. Around 70% of Australia’s agricultural produce is exported. Effective traceability systems are critical for access to these export markets to enhance trust in Australian-grown products and give producers a much-needed competitive edge.
That’s what the National Traceability Project is all about.
To explain more, we answer your top questions about the National Traceability Project:
What is the National Traceability Project?
The National Traceability Project sets out to create a framework to enhance Australia’s traceability systems for the future.
This has a multitude of benefits. Firstly, it will improve competitiveness: by improving traceability systems, producers will also be able to fully support claims, such as “organic” and “environmentally friendly”. Most importantly, it will enhance trust in Australian-grown products for customers both domestically and abroad, building “brand Australia”.
When he announced the project as Australian Minister For Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud said, “If we can demonstrate our food is world’s best, we’ll see better profits for farmers.”
What is traceability?
Traceability refers to the ability to track an item throughout the supply chain. The official definition is “…the ability to follow the movement of a product through stages of production, processing and distribution”. (ISO 2007)
A traceability system typically records and follows the journey as ingredients, parts and materials come from suppliers, are processed and then distributed as end products. A vital component of this is product identification, specifically barcodes and batch codes.
Why is this important?
For lots of reasons.
Product traceability makes it easier to locate defective or unsafe foods, pharmaceuticals or other products so they can be quickly either withdrawn from sale or recalled.
(Not sure of the difference between a product recall and withdrawal? Here’s what Australian manufacturers need to know – with examples.)
As Littleproud explained, “We’ll be able to more easily find where a biosecurity or food-safety problem began,so an isolated incident won’t impact a whole industry.It will also let us stop overseas shipments earlier if there’s a food-safety issue.”
Traceability also helps identify the source of all food inputs, such as raw materials, additives, ingredients and packaging. And it has become an effective tool in fighting product counterfeiting.
(See how track-and-trace can help you become a manufacturer of the future. And here’s how GS1 2D codes are part of Woolies’ 2019 plans to cut product recall food waste and improve traceability).
The report “Enhancing Australia’s systems for tracing agricultural production and products”, outlines a few key reasons. Perhaps the most pertinent is that key trading partners are demanding it. They want stronger assurances about Australia’s traceability for agricultural and seafood products.
So, if Australia is going to remain competitive to meet the opportunities provided by global growth in agrifood imports, we need to implement better traceability systems.
But it’s not just trading partners: consumers are demanding it too. They are asking for more information about food safety, quality, provenance and sustainability of production.
What does the National Traceability Project involve?
The government initially outlined two stages:
- Stage 1 (from November 2017) assessed the current state of the Australia’s agricultural-traceability systems, across most agricultural commodities, and reviewed global drivers for the future.
- Stage 2(from October 2018) is to develop a National Traceability Framework and Action Plan for enhancing Australia’s agricultural traceability systems
Stage 2 is now in progress. The working group has already gathered feedback from the public and is using this, in consultation with agricultural industries, to develop the Action Plan template.
What did the feedback say?
According to the website, the public “broadly supported the framework” – but had some suggestions. For example, some participants said that the principles should reflect the need for interoperability between regulatory and commercial systems. Others emphasised the challenges of data sharing and striking the right balance between transparent supply chains and protecting commercially sensitive information.
What steps can you take now?
Traceability isn’t something that you should wait to implement. As per above, trading partners and consumers are already demanding it.
Here are some key steps you can take now to get your business ready:
- Do your research. Begin by understanding the “why” behind traceability. Read these articles on the importance of traceability in your supply chain and what your business needs to know about traceability. Download these free whitepapers on “Counting the cost of a recall” and “Serialisation 101 for product traceability”.
- Look at what your trading partners and regulators need. Are you meeting their requirements? If not, where are the gaps? What are your competitors doing?
- Talk to the experts. Traceability is our specialty at Matthews Australasia, so get in touch with our team to find outhow to implement traceability in your business and the innovative solutions, such as our latest version of iDSnet tailored specifically for meat exporters (Department of Agriculture and Water Resources approved).
You may be interested to read these strategies Aussie manufacturers are using to combat food fraud strategies and protect their brands.
Image credits: iStock/ Smyk (main); iStock/ gStudio (2nd); iStock/ Ben Goode (3rd)