Traceability in food supply chains - Beyond food safety
Abstract: The former close relation between producer and consumer has gradually disappeared in the industrialisation and globalisation of the food industry. As a result a need for traceability has emerged. It is difficult today for consumers to know if the products they purchase live up to their specifications due to poor communication between the food industry and consumers. This gap between can be addressed by increased openness and transparency which is why traceability is regarded as being crucial in the food industry. Consumer concerns regarding food safety have steadily increased since the 1990s. But consumer concerns go beyond safety. Regardless of what objectives drive companies to gain and maintain chain traceability, the interaction between the actors is important. The overall purpose of this thesis is to present the results of research that explores the concept of traceability in food supply chains. The research is based on two case studies in the food industry and on literature reviews. The first case study explores challenges and opportunities in implementing chain traceability perceived by actors in food supply chains. It also examines how traceability can be visualised for the actors so that they can identify it, its challenges and opportunities. The second case study investigates why actors in a food supply chain want to gain and maintain chain traceability and how they interact to ensure it. The results from the first case study indicate that the brownboard tool through its characteristics is suitable for visualising traceability. The companies involved were able to identify both traceability related challenges and opportunities. The results from the second case study and literature review concur that companies have different objectives for their engagement in traceability. These are presented in a framework grouped into three categories: food safety and quality, managing the supply chain and internal resources, and communication with consumers. This study also indicates that the interaction among companies in the second case study takes place not only in the exchange of physical products and information but also in business relations, and that these depend much on trust. The thesis contributes to academia by defining the concept of chain traceability in a food context through the traceability objective framework and the model linking the three groups of traceability objectives to attitude and ambition. This thesis makes a methodological contribution by describing the brownboard tool and its usage, but also through the development of the framework for the reporting of case study research. The contribution to industry is in the presentation of the brownboard tool. The tool’s visual approach facilitates the attainment of a holistic overview of the process studied. This thesis also contributes to an understanding among companies that not all the actors in a supply chain have the same traceability objectives, which can result in an emphasising of these objectives in supplier evaluation and screening.
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