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Food Safety and ICT Traceability Systems: Lessons from Japan for Developing Countries

Food Safety and ICT Traceability Systems: Lessons from Japan for Developing Countries The increasing number of food safety problems occurring worldwide in recent years has heightened consumers' food safety awareness and has caused public distrust of the increasingly complex and globalized food production and trading system. Establishing a food traceability system could improve consumers' confidence and address the documentation requirements required under multinational and bilateral trade agreements. Food traceability systems are therefore becoming critical for the food industry and the public sector, as well as for consumers.

The increased requirements for documentation and reporting systems are taking a toll on developing countries that are hoping to expand their trade in food or break into new markets. Smallholder farmers in particular could be further marginalized from the global food trading system by the burden of the reporting requirements. This paper reviews experiences in using information and communications technology (ICT) to create efficient traceability systems and make information more easily available to consumers.

Case studies from Japan, where the use of ICT in food traceability systems is relatively advanced, reveal lessons for developing countries. The paper examines institutional arrangements, hardware and software requirements, costs of operation, roles of the public and private sectors, and the impacts of two food traceability systems (one for dried shiitake mushrooms, the other for poultry products, both by smallholder farmers). The two case studies show how ICT can help to establish an efficient traceability system and improve consumers' confidence in the products. They also show that collaboration between public and private sectors is a key to success. The traceability systems facilitate improved efficiency in the management of the supply chain. At the same time, in the event of a food safety incident, the source of the problem can be more quickly identified and appropriate action taken. It is expected that traceability systems will be increasingly adopted in food-exporting countries as a strategy to improve competitiveness in the global food market.

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  1. Prof. J. George
    (posted 10 June 2009 / 06:30:36 PM)

    A good study indeed to keep one updated with the new developments in the area of food safety. The authors have in a short and concise WP givena concise lessons fron the study. They need to be complimented on the effort. The authors must be encouraged to develop this WP into a full blown research paper. However, some comments that must find placein the full paper are as follows: (1) Can these lessons be generalised over different developing countries and production landscape where issues of livelihood and food security are paramount? (2) The public sector certainly needs to play a dominant role and hence the funding quantum and pattern needs a different exclusive treatment to make it more localised. Who will do it? (3) How do we get this traceability into a major concern as in Japan itself only 20% are following/participating in the ITES initiative for traceability.
    (4) Two case study products have certain limitations in other developing countries as they have a different definition of smallholder producer and these two products are not produced on an industrial scale dimensions. What adjustements are required or needs to incorported to the study to make it acceptable/practicable on wider spectrum of developing countries?

The views expressed in this paper are the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), its Board of Directors, or the governments they represent. ADBI does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this paper and accepts no responsibility for any consequences of their use. Terminology used may not necessarily be consistent with ADB official terms.

Working papers are subject to formal revision and correction before they are finalized and considered published.

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