The Ontario and Canadian governments announced in July that they will invest $21.5 million in food safety over the course of the next three years by improving traceability. The new Traceability Foundations Initiative (TFI) provides up to 75% cost-share funding to industry in order to support voluntary information-sharing networks that will include data such as premises identification, animal/product identification, and movement recording—information that can speed up response to a foodborne illness outbreak and, ideally, prevent its spread.
“These projects will enhance information networks using information technology infrastructure that meets identified business needs and achieves economic benefits, increase adoption of sustainable voluntary traceability systems developed to national or international standards, and strengthen agri-food traceability through industry-led development of systems,” said a release from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
That’s all well and good, but Rick Holley, PhD, a professor in and head of the department of food science at the University of Manitoba and an adviser to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency who has called Canadian food safety “an accident” thinks it misses the mark.
“Traceability is certainly an important issue, but the operation of the food safety system should be done in such a fashion that it prevents illnesses from occurring,” he said. “Traceability is important when there’s a failure of the operation of the food safety system. The emphasis that is currently placed on traceability, rather than curing the inherent problems in the food safety system, means that we have not really sorted out our food safety priorities.
“It seems to me as if we’re not spending money as wisely as we could in order to stem the tide of foodborne illness outbreaks. Implementation of traceability systems with a high level of rigor while the food safety system itself is in disrepair is analogous to installing a sunroof on a car with bald tires.”
The TFI is accepting applications until Sept. 16. The application is available online.