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New project aims to track food all the way back to the farm

In an ongoing process to create accountability and responsibility from farm to consumer table, a Manitoba-based pilot project is trying to show that food traceability from the store to the farm is possible, and the project is starting with livestock.

November 25, 2008  By Canadian Press/Brandon Sun

November 25, 2008

WINNIPEG – A pilot project in Manitoba has shown that is possible to track food backward from the store to the farm – something that could be invaluable in the event of another food-borne disease outbreak.

The project was a joint effort between the province, computer company IBM and 16 farmers, processing plants, truckers and retail stores.


Dr. Wayne Lees, Manitoba's chief veterinary officer, explained Monday that expanding on the success of the pilot project would require a move away from a paper trail toward a computerized one.

Currently, a cow can go through dozens of hands on its way to the slaughterhouse, butcher and grocery store, and everyone along the way may have a different system of record-keeping.

It can be even more complicated for other foods such as vegetables, which are not individually tagged.

Officials are aiming to make the new tracking system precise enough to follow a piece of broccoli, a carrot or other item between the store where it is sold and the farm where it originated.

"The problem is, a lot of the information in the food supply chain currently is being kept, unfortunately, (with) paper and pen, and therefore not accessible in an emergency and also subject to error and loss," said Susan Wilkinson of IBM.

For the new system to work, everyone in the food supply chain would have to agree to store and share key information by computer.


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