Traceability should be a special concern for players in the fisheries industry, with complete awareness of the fact that the industry remains heavily regulated. With the Canadian government announcing extensive amendments to the Fisheries Act in the form of Bill C-68, which are set to integrate further regulations and modern safeguards to the industry, one can safely conclude there’s an increasing need for standardized traceability solutions across the industry. That being said, the move to standardized traceability practices pertaining to the seafood industry is not recent.
RFID tags have been utilized by proactive players in the seafood industry to track their workforce and the large range of equipment that is essential for running large-scale operations. Furthermore, RFID tags and traceability solutions have also been utilized to set up hierarchies for the sake of providing access to those responsible for maintaining valuable inventory. However, there still remains the matter of being able to track a given consignment of seafood. And, this is where one needs a blueprint for solid traceability solutions for the seafood industry. But, before moving to the solution, let us understand the crux of the problem.
Mislabelling and Fraud
Governmental compliance isn’t the only reason for why proactive players in the seafood industry must pay more attention to their traceability requirements. Studies that were conducted to test the accuracy of labels revealed that there is a serious issue of mislabelled seafood, where only seven of the one hundred twenty fish marked as ‘Red Snapper’ turned out to be ‘Red Snapper’ for real. This prevalence of fraud might reveal some holes in the existing operational machinery of certain companies. And, while this might not directly affect the productivity of those companies, the companies risk losing the hard-earned public support they currently enjoy based on the perceived authenticity of their offerings.
The study that was previously mentioned was hosted by Oceania, and through DNA testing, they came to the conclusion that an astounding 33% of the 1215 samples they analyzed turned out to be mislabelled. In their bid for positive reform, Oceania bids for improved traceability, which is made possible through timely governmental measures, such as that of Canada and that of the United States. Such transparency has the potential to propel the seafood supply-chain to function more efficiently. The implementation of such standardized traceability also facilitates the availability of genuine information that can be verified and revisited if consumer codes or governmental agencies conduct a cross-examination.
The Solution: Inspiration from Across the Border
The issue of mislabelling and fraud is just as prevalent in Canada, as it is in the United States and Europe. As a response to growing concerns of such large-scale deception, the United States carefully curated their own U.S. Seafood Traceability Implementation Guide. The guide accurately instructs (along with pictures) just how traceability solutions such as barcode readers, numerical identifiers, and RFID tags may be utilized for regular operational use.
The Huffington Post agreed with the notion that traceability is the means to curb seafood fraud. Their endorsement of traceability solutions read: “So what is the solution to seafood fraud? Simply put — traceability, or tracking our fish from boat to plate. More than 90 percent of the seafood we eat in America is imported and less than 1 percent is tested by the FDA for fraud. It may seem like a daunting task to monitor it all, but it really should not be. While some voluntary seafood traceability programs already exist in the U.S., tracking our seafood should be the norm, not a rare occurrence.”
The Working: Assessing Traceability
How does one go about tracking a given consignment of fish? Needless to say, the thought of being able to track each fish is absurd. But, the sophistication of modern-day technology has enabled us to come up with superior alternatives. It is, naturally, possible to tag and track a given box of fish. When implemented successfully, with logistics in place, it will be possible for customers to avail fresh fish, specially marked out for their use… even before the ship carrying fish gets the chance to arrive.
How is this possible? It is made possible because the traceability solutions we’re considering, with the help of barcode printers and scanners, are more than adept at recording and storing critical information such as details about the fishing grounds, the quality of the fish, the type of the fish in question, details about its dimensions and weight, and lastly, the details about the final point of its sale. Industry specialists might have concerns about the costs they might incur if they consider such a drastic upgrade of their existing operations. The positive here is the fact that boxes for seafood are reusable and have high customization value, where the requisite labels can be planted upon the box to update it whenever required. This remains, essentially, a one-time investment that can help you better prepare and comply with incoming governmental regulations, and drastically reduce fraud.
We clearly see the manner in which most big players in developed countries have moved towards integrating traceability solutions as a part of their operations. Such an endorsement for traceability by the United States government also displays the pressing need to ensure that we, as an industry, do justice to the customers who pay for the quality of the seafood they desire.
The final point of contention for most in the industry is perhaps the uncertainty of the durability of the labels they use to convey information. This uncertainty is not unsubstantiated. After all, their investments in the requisite barcode readers and RFID tags are essentially wasted without labels that are durable enough to withstand proximity to water and moisture. However, durable label material like vinyl or polyester, combined with specialized coatings and adhesive options, are enough to instill confidence to make such investments. Contact our team of traceability experts at Jet Marking Systems to gain more insight into the workings of our traceability solutions.