News Feature | June 11, 2015

An Important Step Toward Improving Seafood Traceability

By Isaac Fletcher, contributing writer, Food Online

The seafood industry has long been vulnerable to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but through the development of a technology architecture, the industry is gaining access to the tools it needs to improve traceability, as well as sustainability.

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) announced that it has received a $1.3 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in order to help fund its ongoing efforts to improve food traceability. The grant will support the engineering of a common technology architecture for seafood traceability and the associated communications, education, and training efforts. 

“Enabling companies in the seafood value chain to share information and trace products from the source is a key component to eliminating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and to improving seafood sustainability,” says Meredith Lopuch, program officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Additionally, William Fisher, Executive Director GFTC and IFT VP of Science and Policy Initiatives, states, “This grant will spark new GFTC research to create a new technology architecture — a blueprint — so that individual organizations can seamlessly share data from multiple sources throughout the international food system.” Fisher continues, saying, “There is, at present, no mechanism in place to develop what our food industry stakeholders tell us is an important missing piece for effective food traceability. The grant will also help us to communicate the value of this blueprint to all stakeholders.”

The blueprint is aimed at accelerating an international strategy that is necessary in order to implement reliable, interoperable global seafood traceability.

In 2014, the GFTC completed related grant work involving research and technology development encompassing nine value chains and 48 companies in the seafood industry around the globe. The result of this project was the recommendation to engineer a common technology architecture that can act as a foundation for an interoperable, harmonized seafood traceability system.

This new 2015 grant from the Moore Foundation will continue to expand these seafood traceability efforts by focusing on three key objectives:

  1. Designing a common technology architecture that can be leveraged to develop a comprehensive traceability strategy among global seafood stakeholders.
  2. Increasing awareness and understanding about the importance and value of a common technology architecture and interoperable traceability throughout the seafood industry.
  3. Supporting and enhancing the traceability financial calculation tool that was developed in 2014.

Fisher contends, “This support will help maintain the momentum we started last year and focus resources on designing a blueprint that can be used for traceability in the seafood industry and also be applied to produce meat, dairy, bakery, and processed food industries.”