National Approach To Traceability Urged

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“Right now it’s everybody’s and nobody’s responsibility.”

A new report for a federal advisory committee strongly urges a coordinated national approach to implementing food traceability in Canada.

The report recommends establishing a national institute for research and development in food traceability. It also calls for a Canada-wide value chain approach to sharing the costs and benefits of traceability from the farm to the grocery store.

Canada’s agriculture ministers (except Saskatchewan’s) decreed in July that a national livestock traceability program will be in effect by 2011. It is seen as a step toward an eventual traceability system for all food.

But while the ministers have issued a directive, no one so far is assuming actual leadership. The danger is a patchwork quilt of regional traceability systems with no overall focus, said Ed Tyrchniewicz, the report’s author.

Tyrchniewicz’s report proposes a research and development strategy for agriculture and food traceability. It is one of seven reports commissioned by an industry-government advisory committee charged with developing and implementing a traceability system for cattle, hogs, sheep and poultry.

In his report, Tyrchniewicz called for a working group of “champions” to look at possibly forming a National Traceability Research and Development Institute (NTRDI) by July 2010.

A working group is needed as a driving force for national traceability because no one is actually in charge at present, he said.

“Right now it’s everybody’s and nobody’s responsibility,” Tyrchniewicz, a University of

Manitoba senior agri-business scholar, said in an interview.

“It’s on the corner of a lot of people’s desks but it’s not in the middle of the desk. If we really believe we’re going to move ahead with traceability, we need to move this whole R&D thing into the middle of somebody’s desk.”

Tyrchniewicz presented his report to a committee meeting in Montreal last week.

He emphasized that traceability itself does not guarantee food safety but it will manage risk.

A national traceability system could avoid industry disasters, such as the one in May 2003 when an isolated case of BSE in Alberta shut down virtually the entire beef sector, Tyrchniewicz said. [email protected]

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