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Food Quality and Safety in Europe



Consumers increasingly want to have confidence in the labelling of their food and, in particular, to be certain where their food comes from. Producers of regional specialities like Parma ham also want to be sure that imitators cannot make false claims of origin. There is no coherent Europe-wide infrastructure for tracing food at present. Developments in logistical information systems are being made in isolation of the methods that can verify the origin of food. To date, new scientific techniques that could provide methods for confirming where food has come from remain largely unexploited. Europe plans to employ the latest methods and traceability systems in the major longterm Integrated Project 'Tracing the origin of food' (TRACE) in order to provide complete traceability of a range of foods from source to shop and back again. TRACE is a five-year project involving more than 50 institutions and organisations.


TRACE aims to develop generic and sector-specific traceability systems for use in the food industry. The systems will include specifications relating to origin that can be checked using methodology developed in the project. Good traceability guides will be produced and global traceability language and architecture will be tested by industry in five sectors: meat, chicken, cereal, honey and mineral water. It will focus on products which are marketed on the basis of where or how they are produced. Technology transfer will be assured through dissemination activities, workshops and intensive training so that the methods and systems can be widely adopted.

Most foods contain the 'fingerprints' of the environment where they were produced. The isotopic ratios of heavy elements from the soil or lighter elements from plant materials depend very much on regional geological and climatic patterns. So, one strand of TRACE is correlating regional geochemical and bioclimatic factors with the properties of locally produced food. This mapping of local characteristics will reduce the need for a different set of data for each commodity, making tracing faster and cheaper.

Advances made in molecular biology technology will be used to create rapid, sensitive methods of identifying species, races or breeds of animal or varieties of plants. Genetic markers and microarray technology will broaden these techniques and speed them up.

TRACE will exploit recent advances in metabolite profiling methods to produce generic techniques for verifying food. Statistical techniques will be used to produce specifications that can be easily incorporated into supply chain management systems, providing a cost-effective mechanism to monitor product integrity.


A study will be conducted on consumer attitudes to and perceptions of traceability and food fraud. In particular, it will address the potentially contentious issue of "What information do consumers think they should be able to access from a traceability system?" Further input will be provided by a network of consumer groups throughout Europe.


The successful completion of TRACE will have major benefits for many sectors of the European community. It will benefit the consumer by ensuring the origin and safety of food on sale. Fake or unsafe products will be quickly traced and removed from the market, reducing the considerable costs of fraud to society and business. This transparency will result in European food being viewed as of superior quality, since its characteristics can easily be checked. Increased consumer confidence in European food will be of benefit to the European food industry and will also help promote sustainable agriculture.

List of Partners

  • Central Science Laboratory, York (UK)
  • Eurofins Scientific Analytics, Nantes (France)
  • Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
  • Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (Germany)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)
  • LGL Bayern Oberschleißheim (Germany)
  • Austrian Research Centre, Seibersdorf (Austria)
  • EKPIZO, Athens (BEUC Designated Representative) (Greece)
  • Institute of Food Research, Norwich (UK)
  • Walloon Agricultural Research Centre (Belgium)
  • Agricultural University of Athens (Greece)
  • Free University of Brussels (Belgium)
  • RIKILT Institute of Food Safety, Wageningen (Netherlands)
  • Institute of Chemical Technology Prague (Czech Republic)
  • Instituto Agrario di San Michele all'Adige (Italy)
  • Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology, Geology Section (Germany)
  • Institute of Chemical Methodologies of CNR, Rome (Italy)
  • National Institute of Chemistry (Slovenia)
  • Department of Food Science, National University of Ireland, Dublin (Ireland)
  • TEAGASC, The National Food Centre, Dublin (Ireland)
  • The Norwegian Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Tromsoe (Norway)
  • Maritech, Kopavogur (Iceland)
  • Catholic University of S. Cuore, Institute of Zootechnics, Laboratory of Animal Genetics (Italy)
  • Universitat Rovira I Virgili, Dept. of Analytical and Organic Chemistry, Tarragona (Spain)
  • Institute of Quality Standards and Testing Technology for Agricultural Products CAAS (China)
  • Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen (Netherlands)
  • Università di Genova, Dipartimento di Chimica e Tecnologie Farmaceutiche ed Alimentari (Italy)
  • TraceTracker Innovation AS, Oslo (Norway)
  • SINTEF Fisheries and Aquaculture, Trondheim (Norway)
  • Biolytix AG, Witterswil (Switzerland)
  • Geochem Research BV, Utrecht (The Netherlands)
  • Kenneth Pye Associates (UK)
  • WPA Beratende Ingenieure GmbH, Vienna (Austria)
  • Geschäftsstelle BATS, (Switzerland)
  • Ecole Nationale d'Ingenieurs des Techniques Agricoles de Clermont- Ferrand, Lempdes (France)
  • e-Blana Enterprise Group (Ireland)
  • Qiagen GmbH, Hilden (Germany)
  • Wageningen Agricultural University Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group (The Netherlands)
  • Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain)
  • The Hellenic Research House, Athens (Greece)
  • University of Utrecht (the Netherlands)
  • Isolab GmbH, Schweitenkirchen (Germany)
  • University of Silesia, Katowice (Poland)
  • Hydroisotop GmbH, Schweitenkirchen (Germany)
  • Famille Michaud Apiculteur, (France)
  • Agua Insalus (Spain)
  • University of Parma, (Italy)
Full title:
Tracing the origin of food
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Paul Brereton, CSL, York,
EC Scientific Officer:
Judith Krommer,
EU contribution:
€ 12.2M
Integrated Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top