雲端把關,吃出有感

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2013 / 2月

文‧朱立群 圖‧莊坤儒


繼醫療雲之後,食品雲是第二朵升空的政府雲。民以食為天,民眾不用天天看病,卻少有人可以一日不食。然而,不若醫療事務由單一部會統籌,食品雲的前身分屬不同政府部門管理,盤根錯節,缺乏整合。這是發展食品雲無法迴避的挑戰。


天冷吃火鍋,肉片、蔬菜、加工餃類大雜燴,佐以各式醬料、搭配白飯、泡麵食用,美味之餘,能確定入口的食物都安全?能吃得安心嗎?

根據財團法人消費者文教基金會公布的歷年十大消費新聞排行榜,自2008年起,與食品安全相關的新聞,連續5年高居榜首。其中,進口美國牛肉風波居榜首3次,其他則是黑心食品充斥,以及2011年的塑化劑事件。

對於食安新聞連環爆,消基會名譽董事長、監察委員程仁宏也看不下去,投書媒體,建言政府應該儘快建構食品追蹤與追溯機制,讓食品從農場到餐桌的生產銷售資訊,都可向上游回溯或下游追蹤,確實掌握流向。

《經濟日報》日前也在社論中呼籲,鑒於食品在原料生產及後續加工過程都有發生食安問題的疑慮,因此,「建立完整的安全履歷資訊」不但急迫,且應當由政府介入,以非營利的方式運作。

其實,歷經近年幾次食安風暴的教訓,政府早已建立相關的管控機制,譬如農委會「台灣農產品安全追溯資訊網」、經濟部工業局「台灣食品GMP ICT資訊服務平台」、衛生署「加工食品追溯網」等。不過,就像火鍋雜燴料理,部會各有管轄,卻不互通,形成食安管理上的漏洞。

雛形:只限加工食品

去年底,經濟部委託財團法人中衛發展中心開發「安心食品履歷追溯服務網」,是政府打造食品雲的初步嘗試,透過雲的平台,將原本各自獨立的追溯系統連結起來,在雲端上進行跨部會整合。

然而,食品類別包羅萬象,如果業者不願提供生產或加工履歷,縱使雲端技術可處理巨量資料,也是枉然。目前試辦階段只先整合衛生署與工業局的食品追溯系統,鎖定加工食品,尚不包含生鮮農產品。

根據中衛中心的統計,截至去年底,食品雲已經納進669家公司、共5,557項食品的生產資料。該中心產業營業部總監葉神丑說,由於對塑化劑風暴猶存餘悸,不少食品大廠如統一、愛之味、黑松、泰山、新東陽、義美等,都是主動加入,坦然接受消費者檢驗。

民眾使用食品雲,除了可從個人桌上型或筆記型電腦登入該系統之外,也可用智慧手機或平板電腦下載App應用程式,於便利商店、超市或大賣場購買食品時掃瞄包裝上的一維條碼,如果該項產品已納入食品雲,當下就能透過行動網路,讀取廠商開放消費者檢視的履歷資料。

譬如,在智慧手機App介面上掃入「新東陽履歷黑豬肉蒜味香腸」的條碼,可以得知其營養成分,以及真空包裝封口是否完好等成品上架前的檢驗資訊。

障礙:政府無法源,食品業者e化不足

根據中衛中心的規劃,食品雲的資訊分成兩類,都由廠商提供。除了開放消費者瀏覽的生產或加工履歷之外,另一類是不公開的追溯資訊,僅在當類似塑化劑事件的食安危機發生時,供政府查詢,搶第一時間揪出肇禍源頭。

比較令人感到遺憾的是,食品原料的取得事涉企業機密,且政府並未立法強制揭露,因此目前只有26家業者,自願把共136項食品的原料機密送上雲端,顯見食品雲當前的追溯功能有限。

對此,行政院已要求經濟部、衛生署及農委會加快修法,未來將要求食品業者必須確實紀錄加工原料的來源廠商及物料批號,為打造天衣無縫的食品雲做準備。

另一方面,一家便利商店架上少說也有1,500種商品,對比之下,目前已在雲上公開的五千多項商品履歷數量也明顯不足。此外,相較於資通訊產業,食品業者資訊化程度普遍較低的產業特性,更是關鍵。

根據經濟部的統計,全國五千多家食品業者,僅約一成使用資訊系統紀錄生產製程,其他多數業者仍停留在紙本作業,距登上雲端還有一大段距離。因此,葉神丑認為,食品雲要能持續發展,政府應加快輔導食品業者提升資訊應用能力。

由於農業部門具有《產銷履歷農產品驗證管理辦法》的法源依據,政府計畫今年陸續把農產品生產履歷納入食品雲,也將優先把獲CAS優良農產品的認證資料送上雲端,未來也不排除與農業雲進行整合。

可以預見的是,如果整合成功,農產品的生產資訊將會大大擴充食品雲的內涵。農委會去年底試辦國產牛肉追溯系統,即為踏出銜接的第一步。

從農場到餐桌,從分散到集中:楊鎵燡肉牛牧場的例子

近幾年來,從狂牛症疑慮到被驗出瘦肉精,市場上的進口美國牛肉屢屢引爆食安恐慌,動搖消費者信心,相對也讓年產僅3萬頭的國產牛肉大受歡迎。

國內的肉牛產業規模很小,市場價格也拚不過進口牛肉。位於嘉義縣六腳鄉的楊鎵燡牧場占地0.6公頃的牛舍內,所飼養的八百多頭肉牛都打上了耳標。耳標編號,就是牠們的身分證及生產履歷代號。

6年前當農政單位對養牛產業的管理幾乎形同「放牛吃草」的時候,年僅三十來歲的牧場主人楊鎵燡,聯合另外幾位同業一起向財團法人中央畜產會爭取自願辦理牛隻生產履歷。幾年下來,其他業者都因成本考量而退出,唯獨楊鎵燡牧場堅持至今,不但成立鈜景肉品公司,打造「御牧牛」品牌,建立產銷一條龍的經營模式,同時也是國內唯一取得CAS認證的國產牛肉。

鈜景業務經理翁晟銘表示,牧場牛隻以青割玉米飼料為主食,小牛及成牛階段還會分別追加消化酵素及毛豆的攝取,每日的飲食紀錄及牛隻咳嗽、下痢等健康異狀,都得輸進生產履歷電腦檔案。

此外,牛隻屠宰、分切、包裝的廠址,也得一併載入履歷。這些從活牛飼養到生肉產品的資料,目前還未納入食品雲,只能在農委會的追溯系統按耳標號碼查詢得知。

但是,如果在食品雲App裡查詢「鈜景」,楊鎵燡牧場肉牛屠宰後製成的牛肉乾,其原料履歷、成品檢驗資訊及加工履歷,都能一一顯示,包括醬油、蔗糖、精鹽添加物的來源,以及大腸桿菌數檢驗合格資料等。

展望未來,食品雲的下一步,應以無縫整合所有食品追溯系統為目標,才能確保「從農場到餐桌」之間每個環節的食品安全,因為確保食品安全已是全民共識。

可以預見,未來在食品雲之下,將會是消費者吃得安心、食品廠商有獲利誘因,以及政府食安管理有信心的三贏局面。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Food Safety Takes to the Cloud

Sam Ju /photos courtesy of Chuang Kung-ju /tr. by Scott Williams

Following closely on the heels of healthcare, the food “cloud” is slowly coalescing into the government’s second cloud-based system. But for all that food is an everyday need and essential to public well-being, the food cloud has faced a number of problems. Central among them has been the lack of central planning and oversight. Instead, its precursors have been under the jurisdiction of various bodies and run on a diverse array of computer systems, which has hindered integration and created serious obstacles to development.


According to the Consumers’ Foundation, the number-one consumer-related news story reported in Taiwan’s media in each of the last five years has involved food safety. News about US beef imports has accounted for the three of the five. The other two involved the use of dangerous additives and ingredients in processed foods and the 2011 discovery of the presence of plasticizers in food products.

When Control Yuan member Cheng Jen-hung, a former chairman of the Consumers’ Foundation, had had his fill of these incidents, he penned an open letter calling on the government to create mechanisms to trace our foods back to their sources. His goal is “farm-to-fork” data that will allow the tracking of food products upstream to producers and downstream to retailers and will enable us to gain better control over the production chain.

In a recent editorial, the Economic Daily News argued that we are in dire need of a comprehensive food safety database run on a non-profit basis with government involvement.

In fact, the government has learned from the recent explosion of food safety incidents and has already built the relevant control and oversight mechanisms, among which are the Council of Agriculture’s “Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System,” the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ “Taiwan Food Excellence Verification ICT Platform,” and the Department of Health’s “Taiwan Food Traceability System.” But the systems cover different sectors of our food production system and don’t communicate with one another, creating holes in food safety oversight.

Limited to processed foods

In late 2012, the MOEA commissioned the Corporate Synergy Development Center (CSDC) to develop Taiwan Food Trace, a preliminary step in the government’s construction of a food cloud. The website connects and integrates the food tracing systems of various agencies via a cloud-based platform.

However, the current trial doesn’t cover fresh foods. Instead, it only integrates information from the DOH’s and the MOEA’s food-tracking systems, which target processed foods.

According to the CSDC, as of the end of 2012 the food cloud held data on some 5,557 products from 669 companies. Yeh Shen-chou, director of the CSDC’s Department of Industrial Management, says that a number of major food companies actively sought to participate in the cloud program following the plasticizer crisis, and that these companies, which include Uni-President, AGV Products, Hey Song, Tai­sun, Hsin Tung Yang, and I-Mei Foods, have willingly accepted consumer scrutiny.

The food cloud also allows members of the public access to its data by means of a computer or even a smartphone/tablet app. This means that consumers can use their smartphones to scan product barcodes, checking the available data while they are out shopping, provided, of course, that the products in question are listed in the cloud.

For example, someone scanning the barcode for “Hsin Tung Yang Garlic-Flavored Black Pig Sausage” into the food cloud’s smartphone app would find nutritional information as well as an inspection report on the finished product, including items such as whether the vacuum packaging was fully sealed.

Inadequate computerization

Under the CSDC plan, the food cloud will offer two types of data, both provided by food producers. In addition to making production and processing records available to consumers, it will also contain non-public tracking data, which will only be examined by the government in the event of a food-safety crisis (e.g. the plasticizer scandal) to help investigators quickly uncover the cause.

More disappointing is that the food ingredients are treated as proprietary information and that the government has yet to make disclosure compulsory. At present, ingredient data is available for a total of just 136 food items manufactured by 26 companies, with the result that the cloud is so far of little use for tracking foods.

In preparation for the creation of a more comprehensive food cloud, the Executive Yuan has requested that the MOEA, DOH and COA accelerate the development of amendments to the law to require food producers to record the source and batch numbers of the ingredients used in processed foods.

Given that even a convenience store typically carries at least 1,500 products on its shelves, the 5,000-some food items for which data are currently available in the cloud are clearly inadequate. The food industry’s relatively slow adoption of computers and electronic record-keeping is also an obstacle to providing up-to-date information.

According to the MOEA, only about 10% of Taiwan’s 5,000-odd food producers use IT systems to monitor their manufacturing processes. Most of the other 90% still use pen and paper, making it much more difficult for them to participate in the cloud. For that reason, the CSDC’s Yeh believes that the continued development of the food cloud will depend on greater government guidance and encouragement to firms to upgrade their IT systems.

Since the Regulations on Traceability and Certification of Agricultural Products provide agricultural agencies with the necessary legal basis for eliciting records, the government plans to incorporate production records for agricultural products into the food cloud this year. The government is also holding open the possibility of integrating the agricultural industry cloud with the broader food cloud.

If this integration succeeds, the addition of production data for agricultural products will massively expand the food cloud. The domestic beef tracking system that the COA tested late in 2012 represented the first step in this direction.

Farm to fork: A test case

In recent years, incidents ranging from worries about mad cow disease to the discovery of beta-adrenergic agonists in beef have ignited waves of panic about the safety of the US beef on the Taiwan market, causing cautious consumers to avoid it. This has led to a corresponding increase in demand for domestic beef. Unfortunately, the domestic industry is quite small—it produces only about 30,000 head of cattle each year.

Yang ­Jiayi operates a cattle ranch in Liu­jiao Township, ­Chiayi County, and competes on a basis other than price. For example, he tracks the production history of each of the 800-some head of cattle in his 0.6 hectare farm using ID numbers on tags in each animal’s ear.

The effort started six years ago, at a time when Taiwan’s agricultural agencies were very hands-off in their management of cattle operations. Yang, then in his early 30s, and a few other ranchers approached the National Animal Industry Foundation about voluntarily keeping records on their cattle. Though the other ranchers withdrew from the system after a few years, citing the high costs of participation, Yang stuck with it and established the Hong Jing company and the Royal Cattle brand of beef products. Yang has gone on to create an integrated production and sales operation, and become the only domestic beef producer to date to receive CAS certification.

Weng Cheng-ming, Hong Jing’s sales manager, says that the ranch’s cattle dine primarily on feed made from forage corn supplemented with enzymes that aid digestion for the young cattle and with soybeans for the mature cattle. The ranch makes daily notes on feedings and on any health concerns, such as a cough or diarrhea, that it enters into each cow’s electronic production record.

The facilities where the cattle are slaughtered, processed and packaged are also entered into the record. But none of this information is currently included in the food cloud. Instead, the only way to access it is by entering the number from an animal’s ear tag into the COA’s tracking system.

On the other hand, entering “Hong Jing” into the food cloud app enables you to access ingredient records (raw beef, soy sauce, cane sugar, and salt, all from Taiwan), finished product testing data (such as the E. coli count), and processing records for Hong Jing beef jerky.

Moving forward, the food cloud’s next step ought to be the seamless integration of all of Taiwan’s various food tracking and tracing systems, which would enable us to ensure the safety of every link in the food chain, all the way from farm to fork.

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