Consumers worldwide have an expectation that retailers should be able to identify the origin of the food they sell. These concerns are driven by food safety consideration and increasingly by environmental issues and animal rights. In turn, retailers are demanding full accountability from the supply chain.
Retailers and marketers of branded foods are looking for security in their supply chains to protect their brands and reputations. Tracking and traceback facilitates on-going product development, but also allows targeted responses in the event of quality problems or product failures.
Product tracking is standard practice in production systems. However in the meat industry, which disassembles carcases into ever smaller components, one-on-one tracking from carcase to end-product has been impractical.
The commercialisation of DNA systems has overcome the limitation of detailed tracking from carcase to primal (or trimmings) by providing low-cost and fail-safe traceback. Tracking and traceback work together to provide a cost effective traceback system.
Meat Standards Australia have been using SureTRAK, a system provided by Genetic Solutions, since 1999, with more than 1,800,000 carcases sampled to date. SureTRAK takes a ‘meat smear’ – a paper-thin fingernail sized sample – at slaughter or grading in a simple and tamper- evident collector. Genetic Solutions then stores the samples off-site in their secure and climate controlled storage facility.
In the event that contamination is detected in an end product, traceback is activated. The contaminated product is DNA tested. The processor’s internal tracking and batch system is then used to identify the batch of carcases from which the product was derived. The batch may be anything from five to 50 carcases. The stored samples of DNA are test and a match found. This links the end product to the carcase, the supplier and sometimes the live animal.
SureTRAKTM costs less than $1 per carcase for consumables and storage. This charge includes one DNA test per 1500 carcases processed and is sufficient for regular auditing. The sample collection system requires no additional investment and is easily integrated into existing slaughter floor procedures. To work effectively, the processor must have an adequate product tracking system in place. A good tracking system requires fewer carcases to be tested in the event of a traceback. With DNA tests costing less than $35 each, the cost of testing is minimal in the context of product contamination.
Genetic Solutions has also developed a variation on the abattoir system for hair samples collected from the live animal. Hair or blood samples can be taken on-farm and stored in the same way to provide producers with additional traceback security all the way to the herd of origin. The hair or blood samples can also be used for other DNA tests such as parentage and marbling. In this way the returns from traceback are maximised.