Regulators across European states have warned the food and beverage industry to be cautious about the growing food frauds. The increasing pressure on business and reducing margins might lead many food suppliers and vendors to cut corners putting consumer health and safety at risk.
Food fraud is a broad term that includes adulteration, misleading claims, substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, ingredients, or food packaging, false food certification, for economic benefit.
India too is a hotspot for food fraud. Stories of fake milk, chemical paneer, papaya seeds for pepper, etc are abound. Report from Authentication Solution Providers' Association (ASPA) shows that 16 per cent of the food samples it tested (106,459 samples across India ) didn't meet the quality standard. According to FSSAI, ten states didn't have the bandwidth to ensure food safety due to lack of workforce and laboratory infrastructure. But, experts believe a lot of adulteration happens in the food trade that is not registered with FSSAI.
To meet this glaring gap, two firms, SourceTrace and AgNext, got together to create a technology platform TraceNext that helps business track food safety and fair trade practices across the value chain.
A business to business platform, TraceNext, will enable firms to trace food origin, monitor fair trade and sustainable practices used in growing the food, ensure complete value chain traceability, legal and compliance norms and quality testing on trade and safety parameters.
"Businesses today are concerned about procurement and want to pin down the quality of the products they receive and eventually sell to the consumer," says Taranjeet Bhamra, CEO, AgNext.
There is a need for transformation in the food ecosystem. "TraceNext will provide information to food businesses, regulatory bodies and consumers regarding food safety and ensuring transparency," says Venkat Maroju, CEO, SourceTrace. He adds, produce is often put on hold for months to assess its quality. Now, with instantaneous assessments and assurance, it will help the country export commodities to the developed markets. Several companies are currently pilot-testing the platform.
As food today moves across the globe, SourceTrace, helps companies, through its online platform, track their produce from global locations across all stages to ensure transparency and assurance of quality. Working across 28 countries since 2013, it has traceability solutions across sectors, such as fruits and vegetables, organic cotton, vanilla, aquaculture, flavors and fragrances, spices, honey and more.
But, just tracking movement and fair trade is not enough. There is a huge concern about the chemicals presence in the food and its nutrient content. To bridge this gap, AgNext's has integrated its platform QUALIX that uses computer vision, spectroscopy and IoT to determine instantly the quality and safety parameters for commodities such as tea, spices, grains and milk. "We created a new category to scientifically assess the quality of the produce instantly," says Taranjeet Bhamra, CEO, AgNext.
He adds, "With SourceTrace and Qualix together we want to go faster to the mission to make food safer for everyone."