A system to trace food has been developed by the University of Wolverhampton as part of a 'Farm to Fork' project, conducted in conjunction with eight partners across Europe. But to be successful, it will require retailers and their suppliers to buy-in to the work.
The euro 3.6M pilot project involved the use of a range of technologies, including radio frequency identification (RFID) to identify and trace food information across Europe from producer to consumer. The system works by identifying individual items and tracking precisely what happens to them during production.
RFID and other technologies identify an item and allow its location and processing to be determined. Sensors allow factors such as temperature and humidity to be tracked. The records are stored in a secure database accessible to users. Items are packaged and labelled with a quick response or other code that identifies them.
When a product reaches shops, people can scan the code with a smartphone, tablet or in-store scanner and the system generates a web page in real-time, which gives detailed information such as where it originated from, where it was processed, packed and stored and how it was transported.
During the two-and-a-half-year project the system was tested with various producers of meat, dairy, fish and wine products in countries such as UK, Spain, Italy and Slovenia.
Professor Bob Newman, a computer scientist from Wolverhampton's School of Technology, led the research team. "The food industry is not working in a joined- up way - there are plenty of processes and procedures but no coherent system," said Newman. "The Farm to Fork project bridges the gap between the supplier and retailers and the consumer."