Traceability – Is your seafood really what it says on the tin?
April 5, 2020
Seafood is one of the most valuable and traded commodities in the world and a major source of nourishment. It plays a critical role in providing healthy and affordable proteins to billions of people worldwide and that comes with increasingly complex global supply chains.
In its journey from farm to fork, seafood and fish products may pass through a number of production stages and change hands among processors, various brokers, and finally retailers, making it often difficult to verify its origin and production history.
With our oceans, lake and rivers under threat, people increasingly care about where their seafood comes from, and if it is genuinely good for them and the environment.
In aquaculture traceability needs to cover “Feed and Farm to fork” and is seen as a key component, especially by the seafood industry’s stakeholders and policymakers, to:
- achieving responsible production,
- combating illegal practices (e.g. intentional mislabelling of seafood with a product of lesser value),
- improving data availability,
- ensuring food security,
- building consumer confidence.
But what is traceability?
Effective traceability in the seafood supply chain can be defined as the ability to identify the origin of the product and sources of input materials, such as feed and feed ingredients, as well as the ability to conduct backward and forward tracking using recorded information to determine the specific location and life history of the product (Olsen and Borit 2012).
How does ASC assure traceability?
Every ASC Certified product is tracked along its journey to the shelves or menus of where it’s sold. Every distributor, processor, retailer and restaurant trading in ASC certified seafood must be ASC-MSC Chain of Custody certified and have effective traceability systems in place to ensure this is the case.
ASC-MSC Chain of Custody certification throughout the supply chain ensures that ASC labelled seafood has been sourced legally from an ASC certified responsible source, has been kept separate from non-certified seafood from ‘farm to fork’.
The Chain of Custody standard consists of five key principles that every company must meet to achieve certification:
- Certified supply – Companies must purchase certified product from a certified supplier
- Identifiable – Certified products are clearly identifiable
- Separation – Certified products are separated from non-certified
- Traceable and recorded – Certified products are traceable and volumes are recorded
- Good management – Companies have a management system that addresses the requirements of the Standard
Each fish has its own story, and traceability lets it tell it to us.
When effective assurance systems are in place, consumers can be confident that that seafood they buy can be traced back to its stated origins i.e. it is in fact what they intended to buy.
Curious to know more?
Reward responsible farmers: Look for the logo!
If, like us, you want to only shop and eat seafood products that have been produced responsibly, and are fully traceable back to its certified source, simply look out for the ASC logo when you shop and eat out. And if it’s not there – ask why not!
- Olsen, P., & Borit, M., How to define traceability, Trends in Food Science & Technology (2012), http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1016/j.tifs.2012.10.003