The adage "you are what you eat" takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to food traceability.
The true origin of what we eat and how supply chains can be thrown into disarray has become increasingly important to consumers and the food industry alike in the past few years.
Significant world-wide supply chain interruptions because of the coronavirus pandemic, plus flooding within Australia, have caused a fresh produce shortage, driving up prices and leaving shoppers surprised by empty shelves at their local supermarket.
To help give farmers, supply chain businesses and consumers more insight, a user-friendly "how-to" guide for tackling traceability in the organic produce supply chain has just been released by Deakin University's Food Traceability Laboratory.
The Australian Guide to Implementing Food Traceability: Organic Produce was developed in partnership with industry partners Woolworths Group and GS1 Australia.
"We developed this guide to give organic farmers assurance their product is handled well and remains in premium condition as it makes its way to local retailers or to overseas markets," said Deakin's Food Traceability Laboratory chairman, David Downie.
"Now more than ever food traceability is crucial.
"Consumers want to know the origins of produce from farm to fork, why there may be a shortage and if a product is recalled.
"With a notable increase in sales of organic produce since the start of the pandemic, it is vitally important that accurate traceability information is available every step of the way."
The guide is one of three developed by Deakin to assist businesses to achieve end-to-end traceability.
The process of growing certified organic products and delivering them to consumers in an increasingly complex food supply chain meant visibility along the way was more valuable than ever.
Importantly, traceability improved the speed and accuracy of food recalls and enabled prompt action to curb threats of substitution or contamination in storage or distribution.
Woolworths Group head of business solutions, Nicole Villiers, said trust was an imperative for the organic market generally, and particularly for fresh produce.
"The pandemic has only increased consumer interest in having greater visibility over where their food originates and how it's grown," she said
Australia's organic fresh produce industry contributes approximately $2.6 billion to the economy each year.
Australia is also the world's largest holder of agricultural land under certified organic management with over 23 million hectares of soil now organic
Principal director with Future Traceability for Agricultural Trade, Joanna Bunting said traceability was not just about the origin of the product but what happened as goods moved through the chain.
Accurate and timely traceability systems showed consumers Australian products were safe and sustainable from paddock to plate, driving our access to premium international markets."
Australian Organic Limited chief executive officer Niki Ford said consumers sought out organically produced food because of their concerns around health, the environment, and animal welfare.
"As a result, they are willing to pay the price premiums certified organic produce can demand," she said.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic the demand increased further because consumers perceived them to be healthier, safer, and good for their natural immunity."
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