Consumers worldwide have become more concerned with the safety of the food they consume after facing a series of food-related accidents. The Food Traceability System has been introduced in many countries to reduce the uncertainties originating in the food purchasing process by providing information about the entire food process, from farm to table, in terms of quality and safety. However, this relatively new information system has not yet been explored with an academic approach.
Food traceability allows pursuing a product’s route by following a product from raw materials to marketing exposure, including its way to the final consumer and thus completing the flow of food through documented identification and tracking. Traceability schemes satisfy the need to follow legislative requirements, also contributing to the improvement of the control process and manufacturing practices. For the food industry, this concept has gained a significant importance by providing records that are ethically and legally essential for producers.
Traceability systems are also useful to consumers because they help them avoid specific products and food ingredients that may cause allergies, food intolerances, or those that do not meet a particular lifestyle, enabling the choice between different kinds of food. Moreover, in the case of necessity, traceability ensures food safety by helping consumers to recognize the product, and to buy only safe foodstuff that meets their needs.
It is therefore of paramount importance that food is grown, reared, caught, and processed to the highest standards and this is communicated effectively to consumers. This helps to build a level of accountability and transparency.
During the analysis period by Allied Market Research, Food Traceability Market size is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8.7% reaching expected revenue of $ 14.1 billion by 2020. With an increasing awareness about food safety among governments and consumers the food traceability market is growing at a healthy rate. Various regulations are made by reigning governments across the globe to track food, as it is directly concerned with consumer health.
Social, Safety and Quality Concern
Growing the confidence of consumers in their food, the changing lifestyles and increasing income of consumers, the rising awareness of society about their health are some of the factors that motivate food companies to implement traceability systems. The improvement in food crises management enables the concerned agencies to build capacity to safeguard the food safety and security which in turn strengthens the social and political security of a nation. In the recent two decades, food traceability has become an important factor due to food crises, such as foot-and-mouth disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the dioxin crisis, the avian flu, the melamine contamination of milk, and other food safety incidents. Food quality and safety crises, in turn, cause significant crises in economic and marketing relationship at national and international levels.
For instance, Liu et al. (2012) reported that in 2002, EU banned the import of aquatic products from China claiming that residues from veterinary medicines, pesticides, and heavy metals detected in the aquatic food products exceeded EU standards. This could affect the trade of China, a country that exports about 3.06 million tons of aquatic products per year with the value of US$ 9.74 billion.
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Perceptions toward Food Traceability Technologies
Food crises in recent years have had an enormous effect on the food industry. Food manufacturers and retailers have invested heavily in quality improvement and traceability systems. According to researchers and industry, stakeholders traceability will become a standard prerequisite in coming years. RFID has turned out to be a feasible traceability solution for food as well as meat products. Consequently, a number of researchers have tried to explore the costs and benefits of the implementation of RFID-based traceability systems. But, the consumers’ behavior towards the implementation of such systems is ignored by the researchers. There is an extensive variety of ideas among consumers about the usage of RFID in food and meat traceability. The primary agenda is to explore consumers’ attitudes and behavior towards the implementation of traceability systems in food and meat products.
Generally, consumers consider that quality and safety assurance supported by traceability system are important and they will pay a higher price for such quality and safe food product. In a case study by Hobbs, 104 Canadian consumers of the beef sandwich were observed, which indicated that consumers were willing to pay only about 7% of the base value of the product as an extra price for traceability system. When more quality and safety controlling efforts was associated with traceability system the consumers were ready to pay extra amount. Thus, the emergence of innovative food traceability technologies is one of the key factors anticipated to encourage the growth of the global food traceability market in the next few years.