An integrated traceability system: the e-fruit system
In preparation for the General Food Law, the European Commission decided in 2001 to fund the e-fruitrace project, aimed at achieving food security in the EU through an efficient traceability system based on Internet technologies. With 200,000 euro of funding from the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5), the e-fruitrace project has successfully tested a Europe-wide Internet-based, customised and integrated traceability system for the fruit sector, which is an economically important sector in the EU. In 1999 fresh fruit production value was 19 634 million Euros, representing 7.3% of final agricultural production. With this share of the total final agricultural production, the fresh fruit sector was comparable to fresh vegetables production (7.6%) and higher than field crops such as wheat (6.2 %) (Directorate-General for Agriculture, European Union, 2001). "Within the food chain there are three major steps: production, transformation and distribution, explained project coordinator Itziar Cuenca. Thanks to the software we have developed, we are able to cover all three. Each player in the chain identifies his purchase of fruit and vegetables and registers that information in the system." The concept of food traceability means complete knowledge of the food eaten by consumers, including health, analysis, inspection of quality registers, origins, species, manipulation, chains, transport, logistics and marketing. E-fruitrace has also overcome the key problem dogging Europe-wide traceability legislation: the incompatibility of different platforms used by different actors in different countries. E-fruitrace simply unified the various traceability systems using Internet-based tools. The result is a standard for fruit traceability. Since e-fruitrace can be used with existing traceability solutions, the investments required from agricultural cooperatives, processors and distributors are small compared to the cost of implementing new tracking systems. In addition, explained Ms Cuenca, not only can information be exchanged quickly and easily up and down the food chain, but it can also be used anywhere in the world. For further information, see: http://www.efruitrace.com.