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Outbreak of meat contaminations have raised much concerns on the need for safe and quality meat. The need to ensure food safety and food quality is to have a traceable operational lines in the various production activities. In addition, a continuous improvement is also necessary to   constantly assess and eschew unsanitary, food waste and contagious influences that can enter the chain.  As cocoa and cashew are traceable and certified, higher premiums are enjoyed by farmers who achieve this milestone. In this regard, our meat must also be traceable and certified to minimize the high levels of contaminations and waste.

Traceability as established by ISO 9001 2015, is the ability to identify and trace the history, distribution, location and application of products, parts, materials and services back and forth in the supply chain.  Traceability, as research indicates are efficient systems to withdraw or recall products faster when there are issues of contaminations . As contamination can enter the food chain at any point, adequate traceable structures must be entertained in the supply chain because it easily analyzes every aspect of activities in the production line. Furthermore, traceability offers a useful tool to minimize waste and protect resources without a compromise on that of the future generation.  In practice, traceability in the meat production operates hand-in-hand with other established management schemes such as Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), Total Quality Management (TQM), ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9001 Standards, Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and Safe Quality Food (SQF) systems among others. These schemes in totality ensure a smooth safety, quality and traceable food products that avoids waste.

Certification by ISO’s definition is the provision by an independent body of written assurance or a certificate that indicates that the product, service or system in question meets specific requirements. Certification as expressed by ISO can be a useful method of adding more credible value to your product or service, and ISO by practice does not perform certification. However, they develop international standards such as ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 with regards the assurance of quality and safety products. With these management schemes in practice, it is proven according to research that a combination of Traceability and Certification in the meat supply chain has been an efficient strategic and sustainable tool to minimize food waste, contamination and standardization. Therefore, there is notwithstanding the fact that the world’s largest beef processer, JBS SA, testified that this strategy has been very efficient because it was able to observe a 60% decline in the level of E. Coli disease.

In Ghana, even though the Food and Drugs Authority’s Food Processing Unit   are assigned to conduct inspection on food processing facilities to assess their compliance with current codes of Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Hygiene practices and other Food Safety Management systems before and in the course of their operations, what we see is perhaps a non-functional food  safety and food quality management institution. Besides, the current state of our abattoirs are not in its robust position to be certified for meat production activities. In effect, even though the institutions are established, their activities towards restructuring activities at the slaughtering houses does not augur well with standard procedures.

What Ghana needs in order to mitigate this challenge is a systematic framework that will support the process and product coordination of activities within the meat supply chain. Hence, to access this strategy, there must be a 100% comprehensive traceable practices within the abattoirs, the boning halls, the material handling units, the plant layouts, the information units as well as the data handling procedures. Again, qualified  personnel and the appropriate infrastructure must be well organized to eschew waste  and ensure food safety and food quality. Besides, data must also be traceable to the customer. In summary, this framework should have the potential to ensure that the right product, its right retail location, its right form and its right value can be traced.

As several literatures explain several strategies to minimize contamination, a couple of them would be recommended for meat production in Ghana.   The first one pertains to the employment of traceable equipment such as readable tags, injectable transponders, ink jet marketing, tattooing, DNA tracing techniques, radio frequency tags and transponders. It is also researched that these systems have the potential to provide automatic identification and be able to transmit information to the various units within the highly integrated meat supply chain. This means that, these strategies have a high level of reduced human errors and interferences.

Again, in an era of Internet of Things (IoT) coupled with Ghana’s high level of internet penetration, a digitalized video-surveillance camera strategy could also enable more transparency on the labelling and sharing of information. This strategy allows cameras to be positioned in distant areas in the farm to observe production activities and workers compliance with safety and quality rules in the performance of their duties. To this effect, a forward and backward tracking and tracing of erroneous food products, acts of negligence and mislabeling in the supply chain can be avoided.

To conclude, it could be clearly stated that a revamp of the current meat production facilities for an application of a robust and systematic framework will coordinate the process and product activities in such a way that an enforcement of traceable mechanisms   for certification, would be efficient to make our meat attractive for domestic and international markets. With  these institutions set up by our Food and Drugs Authority, human capital, technological and infrastructural advancements plus an enhanced auditing standards would be needed, to enable traceability and certification becomes a necessary tool to be followed.

AUTHOR: Patricia Akyeampong


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