Following the recent massive beef recall in Canada, the Conference Board of Canada has issued a new report calling on all companies in the country’s supply chain to improve product traceability. Noting that Canada’s regulatory mandates on traceability are weaker than those in the U.S., the EU, and Australia, the organization is urging government agencies and private firms to collaborate on a low-cost, low-complexity method of quickly identifying the source of contaminated products.
In a report entitled “Forging Stronger Links: Traceability and the Canadian Food Supply Chain,” prepared for the Board’s Centre for Food in Canada (CFIC), the organization said concerns about food safety, globalized food markets, genetics, emerging technologies, and changing trade regulations have prompted calls for better traceability systems and tools. Yet, the Canadian market has not kept up with the times, the CFIC noted. It cited reasons such as growing complexity in the supply chain, data incompatibility, inconsistent participation by private firms, and others as barriers to a more comprehensive and effective system.
“The challenge now is to ensure that traceability becomes more universal in a manner that buttresses industry competitiveness. This means ensuring that traceability costs are effective yet affordable, and that traceability’s value to industry outweighs the cost to the companies that pay for it,” according to the report.
A key concern: the costs of implementing a more standardized approach and the question of who is responsible for those costs. The CFIC called on Canadian regulatory officials to determine whether current market approaches are effective and to develop solutions to address existing deficiencies.
One main challenge facing the Canadian supply chain is the lack of standardized tracking efforts. For instance, some firms maintain simple paper records, while others have deployed sophisticated electronic systems with highly detailed information that may differ in their “breadth, depth, and precision.” Also, some systems track “small units of analysis, such as an individual cow or fish, while others focus on larger units of analysis, such as the grain from an entire silo.” Further, system compatibility poses a major communication problem.
The report outlined eight potential solutions for improving traceability, including mandating minimum reporting requirements, standardizing systems to improve compatibility, requiring premises identification for livestock and poultry producers and allocating government funding to help companies pay for systems.