July 15/Chicago/Newswise -- Today’s global food supply chain has become increasingly complex as companies seek greater efficiencies to feed the world’s growing population. Product tracing has emerged as a critical tool for increasing the transparency of the attributes and origin of food products -- from farm to processing to retail and foodservice, or to the family table.

On July 12, The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) board of directors approved the launch of a new food traceability center designed to protect and improve the global food supply. The Global Food Traceability Center will serve as an authoritative, scientific, and unbiased source for food traceability. Currently there is no single entity, public or private, that brings together key stakeholders in the agri-food system to collaborate on providing timely product tracing solutions, an IFT release notes.

When food-related problems occur, time is the enemy, as health and lives are at stake, as well as the livelihoods of industries, companies and employees. This center will assist companies to better trace the paths of products through the supply chain to improve food safety, mitigate risk and avoid devastating health consequences and economic impacts to the food system.

“We will create a focal point where industry, academic institutions, government, foundations and consumer groups can discuss, collaborate, conduct research, adopt best practices and implement practical and actionable traceability solutions for the food system,” said IFT executive vice president Barbara Byrd Keenan.

The formation of the Center is the result of three Traceability Research Summits IFT held in 2011. These summits were a part of the Traceability Improvement Initiative (TII) launched by IFT with seed funding support from BASF Chemical Company, Underwriters Laboratories, and National Fisheries Institute. The industry views IFT as an unbiased visionary capable of managing conflicting viewpoints by focusing on science and not endorsing one particular solution.

Founding sponsors for the Global Food Traceability Center include Cargill Inc., Food Marketing Institute, GS1 US, International Association for Food Protection, Intertek Group, Lyngsoe Systems, Mars Inc., National Fisheries Institute, Produce Marketing Association, Wal-Mart and the University of Guelph.

For more information, visit the IFT Traceability website -- www.globalfoodtraceability.org or contact Will Fisher, IFT vice president of Science and Policy Initiatives, at 202-330-4977, wfisher@ift.org.