Most food and drink manufacturers claim to be ready for product traceability rules which take effect next January, according to Food Manufacture's new survey.
A total of 75% claimed to be ready for the new ?one up, one down' traceability requirement on all companies. Only 12% admitted to not being ready, with another 11% unaware of what was coming.
However, Ian Smith, the co-ordinator of FoodTrace, which the European Commission (EC) set up to introduce traceability in the European Union, was not convinced. "There is a concern that a big percentage of the industry is not aware of these regulations," he said. "Our big worry is that we are not moving anywhere."
A food safety crisis on the scale of BSE could be the first test, he warned. "Traceability will be the number one issue over the next few years," said one director in Food Manufacture's survey.
Smith said that vagueness in the regulations meant different interpretations, with countries also at different stages of preparation. "Communication, education and training remain the three key requirements towards the successful implementation of traceability solutions, not only across Europe, but around the world."
Traceability would cut costs, he added, and new traceability software would be on the market by October, he said.
FoodTrace, which has produced a "framework protocol" for traceability, will deliver its final report to the EC in June. It is applying for funding for two further projects.
Meanwhile, this month sees the launch of a centre of excellence for automatic identification and data capture, at Hull University. Much of the work will be on food traceability, said Smith. The Yorkshire Forward agency and others have provided £5-7m of funding for the centre for three years.