Keeping track

From Fish magazine, September 2013:

The journey of a prawn from the trawler to the table is long and complex: a story of boats, boxes, containers, planes and trucks, of fisheries, factories and supermarkets, and of fishermen, distributors and consumers.

For the most part, the steps along this journey are unimportant, as long as they deliver the end product to the end user in the right condition. But if something goes wrong at any stage along that journey – if the prawns are contaminated, if refrigeration breaks down, if a box goes missing or if a diner falls ill – then each of those steps comes under scrutiny.
It is a scenario that challenged Austral Fisheries when a problem with its product was identified at the point of retail sale in the lead-up to Christmas 2011.

Although the problem could have occurred at any point along the supply chain, the company recalled all prawns in the batch, just to be sure. But without a detailed tracking system, it was forced to recall all prawns originating from a particular trawler, which had been delivered across three states.

This is where traceability comes into its own, allowing someone to track the movement of a unit of product from its point of origin right through to its final destination, using a unique identifying code to pinpoint where a problem may have occurred along the way.

“In the context of the fishing industry, it provides the ability to actually track back through the history,” says seafood industry consultant and traceability expert Allan Bremner, an adjunct associate professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast.

“For example, you should be able to take the barcode from the supermarket and go back a step and back another step and back another step until eventually you get to the boat that caught it and which particular species it is and the batch, which day and even which haul it came from.” Read more.

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