In the last decade, a series of major tainted-food emergencies and accidents have destabilised Europe's agro-food industry and damaged consumer confidence in the food supply. The European Union and many businesses have realised that the current agrofood supply chain is hard to manage on a European scale, and that safety and quality suffer as a result. To help solve this problem, the EU's Specific Support Action (SSA) e-MENSA gathered ten partners from six European countries and one international organisation. It aimed to constitute a knowledge-exchange platform that will help create a food supply chain management infrastructure based on information and communication technology (ICT).
The food supply chain is the channel a product follows from source to end-consumer. In Europe, weak points are cooperation and communication among players, who often have clashing policies, objectives and responses to changes in the industry. This confusion can allow safety and quality problems to travel downstream uncorrected. e-MENSA assumed that recent advances in food processing, auditing and ICT, and supply chain management, offer the potential to improve food quality and safety. In practical terms, supply chain players benefit by having the right amount of product at the right location and time, cuts in transaction costs and improvement in other areas, such as information searches, contract negotiation and contract monitoring.
Since the only workable approach to the EU food supply chain should have a pan-European dimension, the Union's support for e-MENSA was essential. The SSA participants conducted preliminary studies of technological, economic and organisational factors for transnational discussions among academic experts and food-chain players. These discussions will identify shared technological approaches and evaluate proposed new ones.
e-MENSA, whose name comes from the Latin for dining table, created a pan-European technology platform of academia, industry and consumers, for a continuous, knowledge-based exchange of technological strategies, research agendas and data. The goal was the assessment of the implementation in the food chain of a new system to collect, manage and store data for validating and verifying food safety and quality downstream from the farm. This secure electronic platform (e-platform) connected stakeholders via computer interfaces and coordinate communication within agro-food supply communities, providing a framework for harmonising quality assurance along the entire chain and promoting active participation and co-responsibility of all players.
e-MENSA published its technological findings in scientific journals and released an readily accessible brochure for the dissemination of results. It held a workshop demonstrating the e-platform's advantages for the business community, created a website, and hold a half-day presentation for European Parliament members. Dissemination was facilitated through the European food umbrella organisations, such as the Committee of Agricultural Organisations in the EU (COPA) and the General Committee for Agricultural Cooperation in the European Union (COGECA).
Food chain monitoring through an e-platform will make it possible to manage emergencies, preventing market disturbances from amplifying downstream to the consumer. Coordination of all the food chain's component processes will ensure that quality and safety standards are applied at the lowest possible cost to all players. Increased time efficiency and precise commodity flows will expand product choice at the point of sale and improve freshness, boosting consumer satisfaction and confidence. This will help increase employment in the agro-food industry, particularly in rural areas.
List of Partners
- Tecnoalimenti SCpA (Italy)
- Asociación para la Investigación de la Industria Agroalimentaria (Spain)
- Federazione Italiana dell'Industria Alimentare (Italy)
- Teagasc - The Agriculture and Food Authority (Ireland)
- Imperial College of Science - Department of Agricultural Sciences, Centre for Food Chain Research,Technology and Medicine - University of London (UK)
- Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente (Italy)
- Institute of Logistics and Warehousing (Poland)
- AGER (Italy)
- Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Food Biotechnology and Food Process Engineering (Germany)
- Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari (International Organisation)
- Full title:
- E-platform technologies for the European agro-food supply chain
- Contract n°:
- Project co-ordinator:
- Angelo Ferro,
- EC Scientific Officer:
- François Constantin Severini,
- EU contribution:
- € 500,000
- Specific Support Action