Local Ingredients, Global Distribution

September 16, 2019

Local Ingredients, Global Distribution

Upholding Food Authenticity in an Increasingly Global Food Landscape

By Neil Weissman

Before the large-scale food economy was established, food items were locally grown and locally sold, with consumers knowing exactly from where and whom the ingredients they were eating came. Today, this is no longer the case. In fact, 69.2% of Americans report they want a good selection of ethnic foods in their primary grocery store. The growing desire for new, foreign food items has dramatically shifted the face of the food and beverage industry, challenging growers and producers to bring local flavors to a global market.

Food fraud

costs the food industry an estimated

$30 to $40 billion each year.

Along with delivering local flavors to faraway markets, manufacturers are also challenged to verify that food items are precisely what they claim to be on a wider scale than ever before. Today, food fraud costs the food industry an estimated $30 to $40 billion each year, making it ever more important for producers and manufacturers to provide insight into the food items on store shelves. As such, a movement has gained prominence, dubbed “food authenticity,” which requires brands to prove that food items are what they purport to be. While in the past, food authentication was dominated by issues of substitution (e.g. was margarine or butter used?), today it encompasses claims around growing conditions, genetic modification, allergen exposure, and more.

In order to uphold food authenticity for local ingredients in today’s global market, growers and manufacturers must be able to answer a series of questions about every food item:

Where did the food item originate?

At the most basic level, producers and manufacturers must be able to verify an ingredient’s place of origin. Yet, with billions of food items in circulation around the world, isolating origin down to the individual ingredient proves beyond the capabilities of most manufacturers. Without the ability to verify origin, consumers often question the item authenticity and quality. In order to verify food origin for every item in circulation, growers and manufacturers must create a seamless record from field to factory, then extend this record to store shelves. These records cannot expire once food items leave the warehouse, but rather must be retained so that they can be readily referenced if governing agencies or consumer concern ever demands further insight.

What farming practices were used in the field where the food item was grown?

The modern consumer is more health conscious than ever before, with a wealth of concerns related to pesticides, GMOs, animal treatment, allergens and more. Therefore, food authentication entails verifying that packaging claims are true for every ingredient utilized. With myriad producers located across the globe, ensuring claim veracity requires automated and highly detailed traceability on the behalf of the manufacturer. Each ingredient must be scanned at the point of harvesting, creating a digital genealogy that houses information related to farm and factory conditions and practices. This digital genealogy is then enriched with additional insight as ingredients are combined to make finished food products.

Were quality standards maintained at every stage of production and distribution?

The vast distance between farm and table demands added attention to food quality and integrity. This is not only to satisfy regulatory standards for food, but also to ensure the safety of the end consumer. As part of this effort, producers and manufacturers must be able to proactively monitor field and factory conditions, then correlate those conditions with individual food items. This includes the ability to answer questions like, “Were appropriate temperature conditions maintained at every stage of production?”, “Were ingredients fresh and within their approved shelf life?”, and “Were ingredients exposed to contaminants or allergens?” If anomalies or compromises occur at any point in the process, manufacturers must be notified in real time, before contaminated goods exit the facility. In the unlikely event that questions arise down the line and a recall must be issued, global supply chain insight should enable rapid recall isolation and resolution.

Forensic Traceability, from Local to Global

With so many questions to answer related to food authenticity, finding the right solution shouldn’t be one of them. At Ashton Potter, we provide the forensic traceability technology required to track billions of food items at scale, and provide comprehensive digital genealogies down to the individual ingredient to enable insight into origin, quality, harvesting practices, and more. All of this data is housed in a tamper-proof, Blockchain-enabled database and made readily accessible on a global scale. Contact Ashton Potter today to learn how our solution can transform your global supply chain.

Tags: , , ,