German chemicals company BASF is to participate in a new project designed to trace Norwegian farmed salmon throughout the entire production chain as part of a qualitative move to boost sales through improving consumer confidence.
The tracing project, named TELOP (Technology Development for Profitable Fishfarming), is supported by the Norwegian government and monitored by independent research institutes. Companies at all stages of the value-added chain are participating in TELOP - from animal feed manufacturers to salmon farms and processing companies to retail distributors.
BASF supplies vitamins and amino acids in the feed given to the salmon, as well as the carotenoid astaxanthin, which gives the farmed fish its characteristic pink colour.
The company said that its participation in the project was part of its broader policy of supporting sustainable development in the food sector. "We are aware that we can only maintain our competitive advantage if our business activities are consistent with our policy of ecological and social responsibility. For this reason, we want to provide consumers with proof that our products meet highest quality standards," said Martin Laudenbach, head of BASF's fine chemicals division.
He cited an independent analysis of BASF's astaxanthin product Lucantin Pink, which he claimed showed that the synthesis process for the carotenoid uses significantly fewer resources than alternative astaxanthin production methods via fermentation or algae farming, and was therefore more 'eco-friendly'.
The BASF method requires approximately one-fourth of the raw materials and about 12-15 per cent of the energy normally consumed by comparable processes, he claimed.
The TELOP database is designed to give a high degree of consumer protection by supplying detailed information about the way the salmon is treated at every stage of the production process.
"Database users can directly trace the origin of any filet of salmon on a supermarket shelf. They can also determine where the salmon was processed, the animal feed it received and the feed additives," explained Dr Christoph Günther, BASF's key account manager for animal nutrition, who is responsible for BASF's participation in TELOP.
"This comprehensive proof of origin ensures far greater transparency than that required by European Union legislation for food products that comes into effect in January 2005," added Günther.
The new regulations from Brussels require traceability only for the stages directly preceding and following each stage in the value-adding chain. This makes information on food product sources considerably more difficult to research, the company suggested. In complex value-adding chains with numerous branching points in the production process, comprehensive documentation is nearly impossible to obtain.
TELOP is currently in the final stages of initial testing, but once it has been adequately tested, BASF said it planned to use the system for all of its products in the areas of animal and human nutrition. The software solution meets traceability standards not only for the European market, but also for food markets such as North American or Japan.
Other companies participating in the TELOP programme include the animal feed manufacturer Skretting, a subsidiary of the global Nutreco conglomerate, Fjord Seafood, which will be responsible for the fish farming and processing, and retail distributor NorgesGruppen.
The Trondheim research institute Sintef and the Norwegian Institute for Fishery and Aquaculture, Fiskeriforskning, are monitoring the introduction of the traceability system.