The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) has deemed a pilot project on facility level traceability a highly successful endeavour.
The Food Safety Initiative (FSI) – Traceability Pilot Project, which included 20 small to medium size operations, began in June 2007.
The Agriculture Policy Framework, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, provided the funding.
The aim of the pilot project, says OMAFRA, was to:
• Demonstrate implementation of facility level traceability in a variety of agri-food operations across the province (one-step-forward, one-step-back traceability);
• Increase the provincial agri-food industry’s understanding and adoption of traceability;
• Collect data on the operational and economic costs and benefits of facility level traceability; and
• Use learnings to develop educational materials on facility level traceability and provide training opportunities to stakeholders .
The 20 operations included nine on-farm operations (from cattle to greenhouse vegetables) and 11 food-processing operations (from cheese manufacturing and meat processing to wineries).
The pilot facilities did also receive some help. OMAFRA says they received 75 per cent of eligible costs up to a maximum of $20,000.
They also received traceability consulting services to assist with the planning, development and implementation phases of the project.
The OMAFRA Traceability Project Coordinator also provided technical and administrative assistance for the duration of the project.
The results of the project include economic and enhanced food safety benefits.
For instance, 95 per cent of the pilot facilities anticipate direct economic benefits as a result of implementing facility level traceability.
The facility level traceability also ensures due diligence (legal responsibility to ensure food safety) and demonstrates industry leadership.
Costs and challenges
For 35 per cent of the pilot facilities, the costs of the program included investing between $20,000 and $30,000 to develop and implement their facility level traceability system.
Other significant costs identified were equipment purchases (45%), staff time (25%), and traceability software (20%).
And the greatest challenges the facilities faced during the project were:
• Time required to develop and implement the system (65%);
• Training staff on use of the system (55%); and
• Writing procedures to support the traceability system (40%).