Sunday, September 3, 2006
Tracking system lets customers trace their fish from boat to plate
By Margaret Bauman
Alaska Journal of Commerce
It's no fish story.
Customers of a gourmet
grocery in upscale Sarasota, Fla., can now track their purchases of
wild salmon right back to the harvester in the icy waters of Alaska.
It's all part of a quality
assurance program devised by the Center for Alaskan Seafood Quality
Assurance in Anchorage and Snug Harbor Seafoods, in Kenai, to elevate
the value of sockeye salmon.
The cost of tracking is
actually very low, and the market reaction has been positive, said Hugh
Bertmaring, business manager for AQS. "The consumer is thrilled because
they know it is Alaska salmon for real," he said.
The pilot project, for
sockeye salmon sold at Morton's Gourmet Market in Sarasota, is the
combined effort of AQS, Snug Harbor Seafoods and ScoringAg. ScoringAg,
also based in Sarasota, provides a Web-based, real-time, 24/7 database
for a complete point-to-point trace back for all products to retail
stores, supermarkets and restaurants.
ScoringAg trace-back records
detail the product's journey from the fishing grounds, showing the
fishermen and their boats, throughout all stages of handling and
processing. All inspections, certifications, packing and transportation
are recorded in real-time, minute-by-minute in ScoringAg's database.
An example is the sockeye
salmon catch harvested by Drew Sparlin. Delivered by FedEx, Sparlin's
fish were accepted by Todd Morton at Morton's Market in Sarasota in 23
hours, 31 minutes and 11 seconds after harvest. All steps were
documented in the ScoringAg database, with the information contained in
a barcode label. The trace-back code can be read with a scanner in the
store or on any computer with an Internet connection by entering the
trace-back code in the search function of the firm's database.
ScoringAg records satisfy the
US COOL (Country of Origin Labeling) law and Food and Drug
Administration 24-hour trace-back. These requirements were mandated by
the FDA through the Bioterrorism Act of 2002, as well as two European
Union directives, and apply to all facilities wherever food commodities
and fish and shellfish are received, cleaned, stored, blended,
processed and reshipped, and all associated records.
AQS spokesman Hugh Bertmaring
said while the system is technologically driven, it's people along the
supply chain that make it work. "The system depends on people who work
with this catch down the line to input data," he said. "The harvester
creates a record and hands it over to the processor. The processor
hands it over to the retailer, and with every step in the chain of
custody, people input data online in real-time. So you have proof, a
timeline. All the information is visible."
Margaret Bauman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.