China’s pork industry has taken its first steps towards meeting Western food safety regulations through the installation of a system to track pigs from farm to fork, technology giant IBM has claimed.
The information management system, which will track the animals through the slaughterhouse, packaging and processing plants and distribution, has been adopted by Chinese pork producer Shandong Commercial Group in an effort to improve accountability and safety.
According to IBM, the system can be used to predict outbreaks through the identification of high risk products and use of historical data.
The system will make all pork industry players more accountable and “if there’s an incident then you’re able to find the source very quickly and execute recalls in a timely manner,” IBM business strategy executive and food safety expert Paul Chang told FoodQualityNews.com.
“In the past there have been questions around the safety of the Chinese internal supply chain and I think a system such as this would certainly improve the consumer’s view of the quality and the safety of food produced in China.”
“This is really the first step in developing food safety systems, it’s still designed to collect data and be able to help respond quickly when there is an adverse effect, but the system can also be used to do things in a more predictive manner.”
The system has already been deployed in countries looking to promote food safety such as Thailand and Vietnam.
“Much of our work in countries like Thailand has been in conjunction with their ministry of agriculture and some of their key large producers monitor and maintain quality manufacturing process and to essentially promote the safety and quality of their export products to the west.”
According to Chang, the high desire for quality products all over the world has driven the need for strong safety controls.
“This type of tech could help China and other countries to be able to potentially demonstrate that they have good control over their products and supply chain - thereby increasing the potential to manufacture products for western countries.”
Predict and prevent outbreaks
Historical harvesting and processing data, collected by the system, can then be used to determine which products are at more risk of contamination than others.
This is turn could help prevent outbreaks related to tainted food – the “holy grail” according to Chang.
“Data could be entered into an analytic system which can determine the risk level, which may in turn encourage inspection and potentially prevent an outbreak.”
“Once the product considered high risk it could be subjected to more physical inspection and perhaps even prevent an outbreak from even happening.”