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Success Story:

Food traceability solution helps SMEs win business

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European legislation is forcing companies to track their products wherever they are in the food chain. Research partners and industrial groups from the 24-month food traceability project P2P have been working with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the pork industry to create an easy-to-use software system for monitoring foodstuffs that is also good for business.

A 22-partner consortium from the P2P project, which officially ended in 2006, have continued working together to create a food traceability software environment called Trace. Providing large numbers of predominantly SMEs in the pork industry with competitive advantage, Trace should help SMEs win business by helping them keep on top of food safety legislation.

Companies in the food industry must now register every item they buy and sell, including buyer and seller details, so that ingredients can be traced from one end of the food chain to the other. When a case of contamination is confirmed, the food authorities use this traceability data to identify which products must be recalled.

Small, independent companies are often the weak link in the audit trail because they can't afford to invest in what is a complex data collection exercise, or buy the latest software to manage it. Although they usually comply with the law, SMEs can hinder the tracking process.

The P2P consortium's new environment pulls together information from different traceability systems so that the appropriate health bodies can access it much more easily than before simply by using a standard Web browser. The former project's research partners (RTD performers) have developed the software tools used to create this new environment, which now automatically collects traceability data from the in-house databases of large companies and SMEs alike to produce a readily accessible audit trail. The project's industrial groups (IAGs) have created the software services that link the SMEs up to the new system and helped them adopt it.

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