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Development of Gap and Traceability System for Greening the Food Chain in Taiwan
Jong-I Hu
Economics and Planning Department
Council of Agriculture (COA), Taiwan ROC
37 Nanhai Rd., Taipei, Taiwan, ROC, 2009-04-06

Abstract

In the past few years, bird flu and the mad cow disease have gained significant attention and brought panic all over the world. In addition, increased agrochemicals and heavy metals pollutions have also raised public awareness on the safety and reliability of food production systems. In response to these public concerns, the Taiwan government has adopted the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) concept in the 1990s, and has launched the basic GAP logo certification system in fruit and vegetable. Recently, the concepts of traceability and ecological sustainability have also been introduced in agricultural management system. Thus, a new integrated GAP system, the Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan, has been developed in 2004. The system is a combination of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), TGAP and legal system standard, the third-party audit system, certification logos, information technology based management, and traceability system. The Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System covers all directions from farming to food processing, packaging, distribution or marketing, and up to consumers' tables. This paper reviews the historical development of Taiwan's GAP, traceability system trial plan, and current status of traceability system. Key words: food safety, GAP, traceability, third-party audit, TGAP, TAP

Key words: food safety, GAP, traceability, third-party audit, TGAP, TAP

Introduction

Agriculture has always been the foundation of human survival since ancient times. No matter how rapidly science and technology progress, agriculture remains the fundamental life support. It represents a productive industry as well as life and ecology. The value it creates surpasses the market figures that are presented.

As agriculture relies on the natural environment, it is inevitably affected by factors such as soil conditions, climate, storms and diseases. When a natural disaster occurs, all farmers' efforts that have put in for months or even a whole year could disappear in an instance. Also, globalization and free trade brought impact on domestic agriculture since Taiwan joined the World Trade Organization (WTO).

After joining WTO, Taiwan experienced the severe impact of globalization and market liberalization. In domestic market, Taiwan agricultural products are faced with the low price of imported agricultural products competition. Meanwhile, the consumer protection consciousness and diverse consumer demands are increasing simultaneously. In terms of consumer awakening, "food quality" is more and more valued. The so-called "food quality" does not refer only to the external appeal, taste and freshness; safety is also included.

Therefore, in Taiwan, to move toward a high quality and safe agriculture has become the most essential administration topic of concerned competent authorities, while the current agriculture policy aims to move domestic agriculture toward "increased value" by transforming traditional labor-intensive industries into knowledge-based industries to elevate the competitiveness of Taiwanese agriculture.

Taiwan's Main Safety Measures on Agricultural Production before 2006

In order to maintain high quality of agricultural products, and to ensure consumption safety, the Council of Agriculture (COA), Executive Yuan proposed few measures related to safe agriculture. It stipulated criteria such as Good Agriculture Practice (GAP), Quality Agricultural Products Certified Agricultural Standards (CAS), Organic Agricultural Products systems and logos.

Good Agriculture Practice (GAP)

In Taiwan, the first GAP system was introduced in early 1990s and the formal GAP logo certification system was implemented in 1994. The logo, in Chinese, is pronounced "Gee Yuan Pu," meaning good luck and good garden. The initials stand for "Good Agricultural Practice." The Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute (TACTRI) of the COA formally registered the logo in 1993 which was patented in 2003; TACTRI is in charge of the logo certification system.

The first GAP system was largely a product safety-oriented management system rather than a process safety-oriented system. The main purpose of the old protocol was to reduce the amount of residues of agrochemicals to a level lower than the requirement of food safety regulations. The application of agrochemicals was a major concern of the management protocol. The objective of the original Taiwan GAP logo certification system is to ensure the safety of crop products, mainly fruits and vegetables. Fig. 1(1103) shows the original Taiwan GAP logo.

The green leaves symbolize agriculture, while the three circles represent: (1) suitable planting time, location and genotype; (2) reasonable pest management, and (3) appropriate timing of harvest. The three circles also refer to assistance in compliance, inspection and regulation enforcement.

For farmers, the logo represents their commitment and contribution. For consumers, the logo represents a reliable safety index. After farmer groups passed the agrochemical inspection and reviewing processes, they are granted the logo and they should use it on their products.

Taiwan GAP System Scheme

Fig. 2(1153) presents the whole scheme of the present GAP system for fruits and vegetables. Its components are explained as follows:

  • 1) Applicant
  • The certification is based on the principle of stake sharing. Application is only open to Production and Marketing Groups. All members of Production and Marketing Groups are stakeholders sharing the responsibility of the group. The logo has only been issued to fruit or vegetable farmers' groups so far.
  • 2) Qualification requirement for applicant
  • An applicant should submit documents of the following: 1) fruits and vegetables after the spot check pesticide residue qualified document in recent six months; 2) records of attendance to workshops or training courses related to methods of agrochemical application, and 3) records of application of agrochemicals on their farms for at least the last three months.
  • 3) Regulations and standards of farming process
  • All the recommended/standard culture and management processes for every fruit or vegetable crop are designed and modulated by the District Agricultural Research and Extension Station of the COA. Applicants should attend the training courses and follow instructions of extension specialists. The District Agricultural Research and Extension Stations of the COA designed standard operating processes for each fruit or vegetable crop.
  • 4) Regulatory institutes
  • The Agriculture and Food Agency of the COA is the accreditation body of GAP. They are task for the exchange of information among farmers, government offices and consumers, including the maintenance and updating of the official GAP website, http://agrapp. COA.gov.tw/GAP/JSP/index.htm. County government is responsible for issuing the certification and for controlling the amount of logo tags released to participant Production and Marketing Groups. The certification technique bodies include the District Agricultural Research and Extension Stations of the COA, and the Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute of the COA. The former holds the post of the technical consultation and counseling, the latter is responsible for the agrochemical residue inspection. The CAS foundation is responsible for logo print and management.
  • 5) Contract
  • After the final review, certified Production and Marketing Groups should sign a 1-year contract with the county government. The contract may be renewed every 2 years.
  • 6) Penalty
  • All members that carry GAP logo must observe the stipulated operational procedure. Unqualified samples will be sent to local governments for follow-up, including education for farmers and supervising those farmers to postpone the harvest. These farmers will also be penalized according to the Pesticide Management Act (i.e., they would have to pay between NT$15,000 and NT$75,000). For GAP products, farmers will be penalized according to the GAP Logo Approval and Use Regulations, (i.e., they cannot use the GAP logo for a term of 3 months to 1 year). The COA will cancel the right of using the GAP logo for serious offenders. For unqualified fruits and vegetables found on the market, suppliers (farmers) will be penalized by a fine between NT$40,000 and NT $200,000, and all such products will be forfeited and destroyed.

Certified Agricultural Standards Agricultural Products (CAS)

The Taiwan Certified Agricultural Standards Agricultural Products is called "CAS", taken from the initials of Certified Agricultural Standards.

The logo of Certified Agricultural Standards (CAS) represents the certification for the Taiwan premium domestic agricultural produce and their processed products. According to the principles of "Quality Agriculture" and "Safety Agriculture", the COA has started promoting CAS logo ( Fig. 3(1077)) in 1989.

The main purpose of the COA in promoting CAS logo is to upgrade the quality and add value to domestic agricultural, aquatic, animal and forestry produce and their processed products. Accordingly, this guarantee the mutual interests for producers and consumers and make it possible to differentiate local products from the imported ones. Through the activities of promotion and publicity, the general public has already built an excellent image of the CAS labeled products and is encouraged to further consume these products. In connection, the competitiveness of these domestic products is increasingly going to strengthen.

The CAS moved to its initial period, starting from the meat products. In August 2007, there were a total of 16 CAS certified major categories including: meat, frozen foods, fruit and vegetable juice, quality rice, preserved fruits and vegetables, ready-to-serve meals, refrigerated foods, fresh edible mushrooms, fermented foods, snack foods, egg products, minimum processed fruits and vegetables, aquaculture, fresh fruits and vegetables, organic agricultural products and forestry products, etc. In August 2007, 275 manufacturers got the certification ( Fig. 4(1266)); they were allowed to use the CAS logo in almost 5,618 products in Taiwan domestic market sales. Generally, this is closely linked with the nation's daily healthy living. For as long as the consumers recognize the CAS logo on the product package, they could be assured of product safety.

The Food Industry Research and Development Institute (FIRDI) authorize the CAS logo's certification, while the National Animal Industry Foundation (NAIF) is responsible to trace the inspection. These two institutes have pool of experts and consummation checkers. As such, they have the competence and expertise for the product quality health safety's check and factory counseling. The CAS Foundation (renamed as "Taiwan Premium Agricultural Products Foundation" in April 2007) promotes the CAS logo. In the tracing inspection aspect, the Taiwan Premium Agricultural Products Foundation has completed the independent management for the promotion manufacturer, formulated four levels of inspection including: the superior grade (one inspection every six months); the good level (once every four months); the ordinary level (once every two months) and the stricter level (one or many times each month). Because of the strict tracing inspection system, the CAS logo certification won the consumers' trust. Currently, the national troops' non-staple food purchase and the schoolchildren's lunch require the CAS certification product. The group meals market is also being expanded gradually in big hospitals, factories, the scientific and technical parks, etc. They approved CAS and using the certificated CAS product.

Moreover, in order to ensure the rights and benefits of consumers through effective management of fruit and vegetable hygiene and safety, the GAP and the organic agricultural products logos were replaced with the CAS logos ( Fig. 5(1065), Fig. 6(1056), Fig. 7(946), Fig. 8(1200)) starting from January 1, 2006. Since then, CAS has been recognized as a unified logo and accepted and trusted by the Taiwan's citizens. In fact, CAS logo has progressively become the byword for the premium domestic agricultural products because CAS-labeled products consist of four unique characteristics, including: (1) using mainly locally-produced raw materials; (2) meeting healthy and safety requirements; (3) meeting national quality standards and (4) meeting label regulations.

Organic Agricultural Products

Organic agriculture observes the principle of recycling to maintain the sustainable use of natural resources, and does not allow the use of synthetic chemicals. The management system must put emphasis on water and soil conservation as well as ecological balance, and must achieve the goal of producing natural and safe agricultural products.

The COA started to formulate the administrative order to push the organic agriculture in January 1997. In order to help develop organic agriculture, the COA has contracted services of four non-profit institutions for the certification of organic products: Mokichi Okada International Association, Taiwan Organic Production Association, Tse-Xin Organic Agriculture Foundation and Taiwan Formosa Organic Association. They were responsible for issuing the certification label and a logo of premium organic agricultural products separately. Consumers could then find more complete information about the producers from the products label.

In 2005, the COA helped six plantations operated by organic agriculture groups to be certified as organic cultivation zones, which covered a total of 191 hectares. They conducted five demonstration seminars on production techniques, drawing the attendance of 609 people. Furthermore, the COA passed regulations and associated measures pertaining to organic agriculture and conducted eight promotional programs to educate consumers, attracting 994 people. To monitor the quality of organic agricultural products, the COA also performed random checks at farms and sales outlets and found 22 cases with agrochemicals residues, a detection rate of 2.48%. These cases were referred to their ruling inspection agencies, county governments and regional agricultural research and field stations for them to give education and counseling to correct their wrong practice. Related information (including products untested but labeled as organic) was sent to the Health Administration for penalty assessment in accordance with the Food Sanitation Control Law. At the same time, the monitoring results were posted at the Organic Agriculture Information Portal (http://info.organic.org.tw/supergood/), a website sponsored by the Agriculture and Food Agency of the COA, for public reference. The end of 2005 had certified 1,335 hectares of farmland for organic agricultural production including: 697 hectares for rice; 343 hectares for vegetables; 152 hectares for fruits; 72 hectares for tea and 71 hectares for other crops.

Development and Achievement of Gap and Cas in Taiwan

After more than ten years of extension in 2005, out of 4,499 production and marketing groups, around 39% or 1,755 of them joined the GAP logo program (including 1,029 fruit production and marketing groups and 726 vegetable production and marketing groups). After GAP logo became CAS logo in 2006, there were 635 fruit production and marketing groups. At present 451 vegetable productions and marketing groups joined the GAP logo programs.

As of May 2007, 1,338 vegetable and fruit production and marketing groups were certified qualified by CAS. The organic system, which, in general, meets the benchmark of GAP standards and obtains CAS logo, has 468 registered farms or farmers. About 775 hectares have been under an organic system.

The numbers of GAP farms and organic farms are still growing because of higher market prices and the public concern on food safety and environmental sustainability.

According to the COA, the hygiene and safety of fruit and vegetable are public concern. Thus, the farm products agrochemicals residue control and monitoring system has been established to examine the type and content of agrochemicals residues on about 10,000 fruit and vegetable products every year with chemical methods by the Taiwan Agricultural Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute of the COA. Farmers are either requested to postpone the harvest or penalized by law for unqualified products. Furthermore, in order to ensure the food safety of consumers, the Agricultural Research Institute of the COA helps farmers' associations, cooperatives and fruit and vegetable wholesalers to set up biochemical laboratories to provide examination services for farmers and self-management of fruit and vegetable. About 300,000 samples are examined every year.

Seven thousand four hundred seventeen (7,417) farm product samples were examined with the chemical method on Oct. 2005, of which, 96.2% were proven qualified. On the other hand, out of the 256,094 samples examined with the biochemical method, 98.1% were proven qualified. Moreover, the Department of Health had examined 996 samples collected from the market this year, and 99.6% were proven qualified. To reinforce the GAP quality management, the COA also collected GAP samples from the market for laboratory test on Oct. 8, 2005. Of the 217 samples, only 3.6% were proven unqualified.

Furthermore, the COA always randomly examines all agricultural products on sale in the market labeled as organic. The examination would also cover organic products marked with tags by the four institutions as mentioned above or by the producers themselves. In 2006, the COA examined 897 samples of organic vegetable, fruit and rice sold in the market. This figure included 721 samples certified by those four certification bodies and the remaining were items that the producers claimed to have produced in organic ways. Agrochemicals residues were found in 7 out of 721 pieces (0.97%) and 9 out of 176 pieces (5.11%). This showed that the certification system could guarantee consumers' rights even more. Organic products, which failed the examinations, have their certifications rendered invalid and the Department of Health would levy penalties on its respective producers. Moreover, county and city governments and certification institutions have been mandated to advise producers to provide all their organic information when they sell their products in the market. Furthermore, the COA is coordinating with the Department of Health to establish additional certification management policies and measures on the production, processing, transportation and sale of organic products and implements them.

Origin and Development Process of the Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System

For the past few years, the bird flu and the mad cow disease brought panic and gained attention all over the world. Then, there are also agrochemicals and heavy metals residues-polluted by dioxin found in certain agricultural products, and genetically modified and artificial food items present in the market. In Taiwan, shelf- life related to food safety has become an issue from time to time. Whenever food safety issue arises, consumers can't help but panic and feel suspicious. Consequently, food producers are caught in the dilemma of resorting to every possible measure to win back the trust of consumers.

Public awareness on food safety and environmental sustainability has apparently worsened along with the rapid social economic growth in Taiwan. The public, thus, expect more transparency on food production processes. The central competent authorities require a more precise and efficient solution to reduce food safety risks and to maintain environmental sustainability.

Strengthening food safety enforcement has become a priority in many countries to protect the interests of consumers. The EU and Japan, for instance, have all introduced the food safety traceability system. In brief, it compares the food's outside appearance, the price and the quality: food safety factors with which the most consumers take seriously. Hence, the current food safety problem already became the most important link in the food supply chain. Many advanced countries looked into this aspect and formulate the related standards gradually, and the most important development was the foundation of food traceability system.

Along with the rise in income, consumers make tougher demands for quality. To provide them with safe agricultural products and to ensure worry-free food consumption, the COA initiated the trial plan of Agricultural Products Traceability System in 2004, by using communications technology to monitor farm conditions and information technology to help record crop growth, and opening all the information on control, management and marketing of products from farm to table to put consumers at ease.

Before, when consumers shopped for food, they could only judge by the appearance and smell. There was no access to hidden information such as genetic modification. With the creation of safe Agricultural Products Traceability Systems, these information were known: beginning from the source and cultivation of the seedling, a log is kept by using text and photos to record the production throughout the progress of sowing, nursing, fertilizing, harvesting and processing. On the marketing side, transportation and storage information is also recorded. Consumers in and outside Taiwan could then have access to information on the product's production-marketing process and photographic record through the computer at home or vending outlets, or even through cellular phone. Such transparency will ease consumers' worry whether there is any hidden information.

Developing safe and high quality agriculture means not just protecting the interests of consumers in Taiwan but all over the world as well. Looking at the trend of trade liberalization, safe agriculture will be an advantage for the international competitiveness of Taiwanese agriculture. For farmers, value upgrade means direct earnings. Production and marketing groups or individual farmer producing safe agricultural products will represent quality and the trust and reliance between producers and consumers that established.

As mentioned earlier, in order to reduce product residues of agrochemicals and restore consumers' confidence, Taiwan has applied the GAP system since 1994. Therefore, traceability system is not new to Taiwanese farmers. Many of these farmers are used to writing and keeping records of their farming processes. The main objectives of keeping records have been to improve management efficiency, improve culture techniques and increase profits. But farmers' farming records have not been publicized to the consumers.

When the COA started to implement the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan, it was confronted with many difficulties. For example, the average cultivated area of each farmer household was only 1.1 hectares; farmers' average age was 58 years old, and most of them graduated from elementary school. In brief, the farming household's management scale was too small, and the producers were aged and had low educational attainment. These factors were the most difficult challenges throughout the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan in Taiwan.

Origin of Agricultural Products Traceability System in Taiwan

In 2002, Taiwan became member nation of the WTO. Under the most-favored nation treatment, Taiwan may expand international trade with other member nations of the WTO and develop high quality domestic agricultural products and processed goods to the international market.

To restore the consumers' confidence in their domestic agricultural products, many advanced countries legislated policies to strengthen food safety, push traceability system, build safe and healthy-diet environment. The COA started to collect related information on traceability system from Japan and EU in 2003 in order to protect the domestic consumers, improve the international competitiveness of domestic agricultural products and develop the international market. Then, the planned and promoted the Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System Trial Plan in 2004, aiming to construct the development pattern of Taiwan "safety agriculture".

Basic Concepts and the Foundation Work of Agricultural Products Traceability System Trial Plan

Initially the COA planned the establishment of Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System, mainly focusing on the following 6 basic concepts: (1) according to the agricultural product nature, constructs management system of consumer-oriented food safety supply chain; (2) begins from establishing Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) that conforms to the quality management and the global food safety standard, then establishes gradually including Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) for the producers and the farmers association, processors, Good Hygienic Practice (GHP) for distributors and retailers in order to help; (3) transparency of the production and marketing process; (4) and executes Total Quality Management of the production and marketing process; (5) and constructs the transmission, traceability mechanism of the production-marketing process related information, and (6) designs the independent fair third-party audit system.

Furthermore, according to advanced countries' experience, a perfect Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System must have the following 4 big core works as the foundation: (1) formulates Taiwan version Good Agriculture Practice (TGAP) that conforms to the quality control and the international safety standard; (2) related entrepreneurs of the production and marketing supply chain cooperate together, constructs the information traceability system and transmission platform that can mutually connect records of upstream and downstream of production-marketing process, in order to publicize the related information of production and marketing process, and make consumers' tracing more convenient; (3) establishes the independent fair third-party audit system and the related coordinated sets of measures; (4) enacts completely the safety agriculture related laws and regulations.

Regarding the trial plan of the project, the COA planned to promote trial plan by stages gradually. The first stage, tests the level of agricultural product operators' adaptability in traceability system, and evaluates the possibility of completely promoting traceability system. The second stage, formulates TGAP conforms to the quality management and international safety standard, extends, and develops traceability information system, and constructs the independent fair third-party audit system. Lastly, the third stage, formulates agricultural products Good Distribution Practice (GDP), implements the production and marketing traceability system trial plan in the agricultural product distribution stage, constructs the consumer-oriented food safety supply chain gradually, and completes the legislation, promotes traceability system completely.

Primary Contents and Achievements of the Agricultural Products Traceability System Trial Plan in 2004

In 2004, the COA started to plan, implement agricultural product traceability system trial plan. It began developing the information system, by assisting the agricultural producers and the farmers association to establish the production and marketing records in the network, in order to help the consumers trace the production-marketing process.

In order to guarantee that the trial plan will be implemented smoothly and become a successful model, the COA look upon adopting a way by which implementation of trial plan would be easy: the agricultural products were easier.

Initially, the COA designated experimental set ups following two principles: First, exported agricultural products or the predetermined for export to Japan and second, the organic agricultural products. Since the former receives the Japanese importer's request, it must include the production records otherwise, these cannot be exported. The COA helped to set up the experiment and they requested for higher traceability system of agricultural products. As for the latter, because the producers of organic agricultural products were ordinary and following the ROP customs, the COA also coordinated a higher traceability system record work as requested by Japanese.

As such, this year the trial plan had been applied to eight exported items to Japan including: pineapples, bird's nest ferns, mangoes, iceberg lettuce, beef tomatoes, young soy beans, cantaloupe and rice (Yichuan Aromatic Rice). The other eight items categorized for organic product certification were: cabbages, water convolvulus, carrots, corns, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, tea leaves and rice (Yinchuan Rice) _ and were chosen to be trial products of the year. Specialists on these sixteen items from agricultural research and extension stations selected farmers or production and marketing groups to be the models for the establishment of the production-marketing profile system for organic rice and root vegetables. At the same time, data systems for agricultural product profiling, from landscaping, fertilizing, use of agrochemicals, harvesting to packaging have also been developed. The COA also held the education and training of Agricultural Product Traceability System trial plan, urged the farmer, the farmers association and the District Agricultural Research and Extension Station experts to understand the essence and the implementation method of the trial plans, in order to ensure that the trial plan will be implemented smoothly. In addition, modern equipment such as field servers have been used to help record the process, enforce safety control and inspect agrochemicals residues to make sure the products meet the standards and demands of "safety agriculture" both in and outside Taiwan.

The COA selected root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes produced by Dounan Farmers' Association (Yunlin County) and organic rice (Yinchuan Rice) produced by the Rice Production and Marketing Group in Fuli, Hualien County, as demonstrative subjects to introduce the agricultural products safety traceability system while applying information technology in upgrading efficiency in agricultural products safety control.

In order to use the IT technology, the COA developed the Taiwan Agriculture and Food Traceability System (TAFTS); established the transmission and traceability platform of production and marketing various stages information. TAFTS connects databases from farmers, farmer groups, inspectors, certification bodies, food producers, supply chains and consumers. The system has been opened to the public via online (http://taft.coa.gov.tw/) since 2004.

The whole TAFTS system was designed consisting five basic components such as: production (GAP-based field management records); food processing (GMP, CAS, HACCP or ISO22000-based, management records); delivery (records of delivery process), sales, sales records, and consumers' records (accessible data trace system). It meets the "from farm to table" concept. The principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) are required to be applied in the management processes for all components. All the data records are managed via a modern IT environment.

The COA is responsible for constructing the hardware and software of core data/record system and helping build the facilities and providing incentives for other sectors. The core system also integrates databases and servers of other components of TAFTS such as food processing and delivery. Servers/PCs of farmer groups are the interface between farmers and the core system. More importantly, the construction of the whole system is collaborated with the IT industry.

Crop and carrot production is the starting component of the whole TAFTS. The scheme of record data management is presented in Fig. 9(1132). The main central processing unit is to be connected to the core data management system, and is accessible to other sectors such as food processing or consumers.

In 2004, the implementation of the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan had a positive influence on both producers and consumers, indeed. The latter can conveniently acquire information about food suppliers, including producer, processing agent, distributor and retailer, and the risk of purchase was therefore, lowered. On the other hand, the producers could help consumers understand specific agricultural products through Agricultural Products Traceability System data online and thus, justify the distinction of prices between products of different grades. Moreover, before applying the Agricultural Products Traceability System, the producer has to receive counseling from the District Agricultural Research and Extension Stations to establish standard procedures for agricultural products as the basis of production, management and recording.

Use of chemicals and fertilizers is then carried out according to scientifically verified criteria of pest control and soil improvement and the results are standardized quality agricultural products. Implementation of the Agricultural Products Traceability System apparently can benefit tremendously the elevation of farming techniques and management skills.

Primary Contents and Achievements of the Agricultural Products Traceability System Trial Plan in 2005

In 2005, Premier Hsieh proposed building a "healthy Taiwan" as the guideline for his administration when he took his office. The word "healthy" not only means disease-free or physically strong, but also to the physiology, psychology, socio-adaptability and ethics of individuals, families, communities and the whole nation. When this healthy notion is reflected on political administration, it implies placing equal emphasis on economic progress, social justice and environmental sustainability to bring good health, joy and hope to people.

Food is the very foundation of survival. Food safety is one of the most direct and most profound element that influences human health. Therefore, building a "healthy Taiwan" must begin with food safety assurance.

In order to carry out the Premier's administration policy, all the COA affiliates and subordinates were tasked to promote "Safety Agriculture" as the key target in 2005 and continue to push organic farming, GAP and products conforming to CAS, HACCP and ISO standards. At the same time, Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plans were expanded. Banana, pig and cobia, etc. were selected for the application of Agricultural Products Traceability System. From beginning to end, their farming, production, storage and marketing were monitored. Food safety starts with Agricultural Products Traceability System.

In 2005, the COA took the 2004's achievement as a foundation, expanded the trial plan category continually. In 2005, the main project tasks of the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan were as follows:

1) Established counseling committee and TGAP formulation groups

In 2005, the COA directed the development of the system headed by Vice-Minister Li to carry out the thrust of Agricultural Products Traceability system trial plan. They established the counseling committee and the TGAP formulation groups. The COA is responsible for establishing the related Agricultural Products Traceability System, the standardized work and the third-party audit system, such as the accreditation-certification system. The counseling committee members include the department officers of agriculture and food, fishery, livestock, zoology and botany medication, animal and plant health inspection and quarantine, experimental study improvement, information, etc., of the COA. The scheme of counseling committee is shown in Fig. 10(1143). The chiefs of the related District Agricultural Research and Extension Station of the COA, on the other hand, convened the TGAP formulation groups, separately. Members of each TGAP formulation group include: experts of the breeding, the cultivation management, the soil amelioration, plant or animal disease prevention and control, farm management and operation, agricultural extension, etc. Each TGAP formulation group is responsible to construct TGAP to connect with the global standard (i.e. incorporating the HACCP operation, integrating the concept of agro-ecological sustainability and environment-friendly, integrating an ICT-based traceability system). In order to help the following development of TAFTS, implementation of farmer education, training and field counseling were conducted.

2) Enacted 64 items of TGAP

To produce safe agricultural products and help consumers consume safely, the COA has promoted the Agricultural Products Traceability System with greater dedication, trying to keep up with the global food safety standard. In 2005, the COA took the Eurep-GAP (the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group Good Agricultural Practices) and JGAP (Japanese GAP) as reference to set up TGAP.

  • In order to establish TGAP, during the second year of the implementation of the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan, the COA supplemented TGAP products including: burdocks, pumpkins, winter melons, taros, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc., organic agricultural products, and other general products such as lemons, shaddocks, jujubes, litchis, sweetsops (Annona atemoya Hort), sweetsops (Annona squamosa L.), bananas, papayas, guavas, star fruits, grapes, pears, mandarin oranges, tankans (Citrus tankan Hayata), tangerines, kumquats, golden seal oranges, sprouting broccolis, onions, green bamboo shoots, shallots, carrots, Job's tears, day lilies, winter mushrooms, white-tip oolong tea leaves, export tea leaves, moth orchids (Phalaenopsis), pigs, chicken, duck, goose, chicken eggs, duck egg, tilapia, eels, cobias, hard clams, groupers, basses ,etc. Sixty-four (64) products all in all were added. These 64 TGAP items followed these 3 principles: (1) important exported products (2) consumer-worrying products (3) products with a lot of outputs in District Agricultural Research and Extension Station area.
  • Almost all TGAP operating manuals include 8 kinds of charts, calendars or lists, as follows: (1) recognizance, (2) work flow chart, (3) risk management list, (4) check list, (5) cultivation calendar, (6) plant/animal diseases insects/weeds harm prevention and control calendar, (7) standard fertilizer application calendar, and (8) work log for production method.
  • Since 2005, the COA has begun to use TGAP to guide the testimonial Production and Marketing groups to operate every aspect of tracking and also provide agricultural products information, products inspection results and other information that could be tracked. The COA further established the Agricultural Products Traceability System to confirm the accuracy of related information of traceability from farms to tables and to be the gatekeeper of consumers' safety.
  • 3) Extended to develop TAFTS and install traceability information-searching devices
  • Having been completed the management information system of 64 items, the COA extended its services by developing TAFTS, two-dimensional barcode (QR code, namely Quick Response code) and installed information-searching devices in Jason's Supermarket in Taipei 101, Welcome Supermarket, Taipei City Farmers Association Supermarket, GAN-Jai-Den in Shin-Zhu Scientific and Technical Park Zone, and Tse-Xin organic products chain stores, up to 8 retailers all in all.
  • At the same time, in sharing production and distribution information of producers in exporting country, the COA started to develop an international traceability system, including international traceability barcode.
  • With just a simple piece of product code, the domestic and overseas consumers could easily identity of agricultural products (i.e. bananas, lettuces, potatoes, etc.) This system stored information about how and where these foods had been produced, transported and processed. In addition, since 2005, the Japanese TAFTS' website (http://taftj.coa.gov.tw/index.html) has been opened.
  • 4) Lowered agrochemicals and heavy metal examination expense
  • Since March 2005, the Agriculture Experiment Institute and District Agricultural Research and Extension Station of the COA, NAIF, etc. governmental or public assisted agrochemicals and heavy metal examination institutes pushed for 50% lower charge standards to reduce the farmers' agricultural products examination cost.
  • 5) Designed the third-party audits system
  • The audits system includes intra-audit of organization, and exterior audit of organization, namely: the independent fair third-party audit system or the third-party accreditation-certification system. The third-party audit is indispensable in eliciting the confidence of consumers in buying safer food. After carrying out GAP, adopting a third-party audit is another important step in improving food safety.
  • According to the experiences of the advanced countries, Agricultural Products Traceability System lays a foundation for 1) safety assurance and traceability, and 2) reliability of information. Therefore, "public agricultural products production and distribution records information" and "the independent fair third-party audits system" is similar to the wheels of the vehicle, guaranteeing the two big mechanisms of Agricultural Products Traceability System. In Taiwan, the scheme of the third-party accreditation-certification system is shown in Fig. 11(1110).
  • The independent fair third-party certification body is task to dispatch inspectors to farms to perform spot check to verify matters such as agrochemicals and fertilizers used and examine contents of related records to ascertain the credibility of related data. At the same time, the certification body is also assigned to inspect and analyze whether the product contains agrochemicals or heavy metal residues exceeding legal criteria. Only by doing so can precautions are truly achieved to safeguard the public health.
  • In Taiwan, in order to establish safety agriculture, guarantee accuracy of the agricultural products, profile records information, and confirm that the product's agrochemicals and heavy metal residues conform to the country's (or the exporting country) sanitation standards, the COA referred to the third-party accreditation-certification systems and other the related laws (regulations of ISO, CAS, HACCP, the organic agriculture products, etc.). They also planned the independent fair third-party accreditation-certification system of Taiwan Agricultural Products Traceability System.
  • 6) Compiled and printed the promotion and guidance handbooks, advertised bills on Agricultural Products Traceability System, and executed education and training
  • 7) Producer awareness
  • According to the survey conducted by COA in December 2005, seventy-nine (79%) of the participants approved the comprehensive implementation of the Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plans. Over 90% of those (under 40 years old) were in favor of the comprehensive implementation of this trial plans. Obviously, the trial plans were implemented for less than 2 years, and the producers had realized the necessity of comprehensive implementation.

Primary Contents and Achievements of the Agricultural Products Traceability System Trial Plan in 2006

The COA set forth the blueprint for the "New Agricultural Movement: Taiwan's Agriculture Brightens Up" in June 2006, accelerated the Agricultural Products Traceability System and many other new policies. The milestones and goals of Agricultural Products Traceability System were: "to implement Agricultural Products Traceability System comprehensively by 2015" and "to synchronize the traceability system with EU and Japan for exported agricultural products". The plan promised to consumers that within three years (2006-2008) there would be products with production information on the shelves of major outlets, chain-supermarkets and discount chains.

1) Increased the number of enacted TGAP products to 75.

2) Extended to develop TAFTS and held RFID Technology for Agriculture Application Seminar.

With the trend of market globalization and technological advancement, many experts had recommended RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) as one of the important technological breakthrough in the past three years. In order to have RFID applied to agriculture simultaneously, the COA held "RFID Technology for Agriculture Application Seminar" on August 10.

The COA indicated that the RFID technology could facilitate agriculture in the following aspects: First, in terms of production: research and develop RFID on different products such as crop, fishing, livestock, poultry, and acquire the best pattern of products in order to boost the production benefit. Second, in terms of marketing: research and develop agricultural products on different patterns of marketing by means of the best RFID application methods in order to elevate marketing benefit. Third, by safety means: establish a public transparency and traceability system through RFID in order to ensure the safety of agricultural products and build up consumers' confidence.

At the same time, the COA encouraged premier trial plans of each area of agriculture to build successful cases and to elevate management efficiency. This kind of method could continuously spread out in the realm of enterprises to enhance the developmental environment of agriculture technology and to establish a thorough information system, to bring closer to international community consequently, augment international competitiveness.

3) Entrusted the "Taiwan Accreditation Foundation" to act as the accreditation body

The third-party accredited Agricultural Products Traceability System is carried out by the accreditation-certification systems, which are qualified by ISO/ IEC GUIDE 65. These certification bodies examine the food products and the process how farmers produce them. If the information of system is correct and the residual of pesticide is below standard level, the product is then certified and will be allowed to post Tracking System stamp issued by the certification body. In order to connect with the international certification standard and help domestic food products be approved and certified in the international market, the COA entrusted the "Taiwan Accreditation Foundation" (TAF), validated by international accreditation bodies, to act as the accreditation body of Agricultural Products Traceability System on September 12, 2006. The COA hopes to strictly check the safety of consumers' products and make it to global standards.

In addition, the traceability system played the role of connecting domestic agricultural products' inspection system with international certification system. The COA finished establishing the basic framework and related standards of its Agricultural Products Traceability System. Then, it entrusted Taiwan Accreditation Foundation to hold a public certification instruction seminar on November 3, 2006. Forty-five (45) potential domestic certification organizations were invited and related certification work was explained in detail during the seminar. There were 28 organizations, including universities and colleges, NAIF, and other related agricultural groups and certification bodies who expressed their willingness to devote themselves to agricultural products traceability certification work. It showed the great potential for domestic agricultural products certification business. Through the COA, these organizations were gathered and trained in a two-day basic training course (November 9-10, 2006) to fully understand the TGAP and the whole content of ISO/ IEC GUIDE 65. The course provided the organizations with basic knowledge of agricultural products traceability certification related to processes. Thus, these organizations could start to plan the certification business and apply for related certification work as soon as possible.

4) Drew up "Agricultural Production and Certification Act (draft)", and sent it to Executive Yuan (the Cabinet Office) for examination.

5) Strengthened education and training, guidance and extension

  • To solve problems such as small farming household management scale, aging producers and incompetence in deskwork, it is necessary to strengthen education and training.
  • 6) Consumers' awareness
  • COA conducted a survey was among one thousand eighty-nine (1,089) consumers who purchased agricultural products on August 7-8, 2006 at chain-supermarkets to assess consumers' awareness for the safety agriculture plans. The results were as follow: (1) 86.5% (strongly approve and approve got 45.1% and 41.4%, respectively) said that they approved "CAS certification" policy, (2) 88.1% (strongly approve and approve with 43.9% and 44.1%, respectively), said that they approved that "each supermarket/discount retail chain sell products which have undergone the traceability agricultural products system; (3) 76.2% (strongly approve and approve with 29.2% and 47.0%), respectively said that they approved that various supermarkets/discount chains sell "the traceability agricultural products" comprehensively.; and lastly, (4) 77.5% (strong-willed (23.8%) and willed (53.7%) said that they would purchase guaranteed safe traceability agricultural products, even though the price was higher. As shown from the response of the participants and how they were willing to purchase such products, indeed, there is great potential for the traceability of agricultural products.
  • Another survey conducted by the COA on Nov. 1-3, 2006, with 1,078 respondents. The following results were gathered: 1) 81.4% said that they thought that it was safer to purchase "traceability agricultural products"; (2) 76.1% said that they would purchase "traceability agricultural products" while only 16.4% said that they would not purchase. The results demonstrated that most of the people trusted the "traceability agricultural products", and a quite high percentage of participants said that they would purchase "traceability agricultural products".
  • 7) Designed safety agriculture unified logo, shown in Fig. 12(1044).
  • The green leaf of the logo symbolizes agricultural products, the bidirectional flow arrows on the other hand, mean tracing and tracking, the thin white lines in the arrows refer to the information barcode. Further, the G glyph design represents "Good" product, the "Heart" glyph design symbolizes confidence, and safety in Chinese and the upraised thumb stands for high prestige.

Current Status of Taiwan's Main Safety Agricultural Products Traceability System

Since Agricultural Products Traceability System trial plan was promoted, the COA has obtained countless good responses from the consumers, chain supermarkets, discount chains and retail dealers as well. As a result, the Agricultural Products Traceability System has been transferred from the trial stage to comprehensive implementation in 2007.

Current achievements of the Agricultural Products Traceability System:

1) Promulgated the "Agricultural Production and Certification Act"

The "Agricultural Production and Certification Act" was finally passed after the third reading in the congress on January 5, 2007 and was promulgated on January 29, 2007. The said Act has opened a new page in the history of Taiwan's agricultural production safety control and legalized the agricultural products' safety valve to protect the interest of the consumers.

The Act provides control measures over agricultural products in farmlands and processing factories, fishery products from harbors and breeding ponds, as well as livestock and poultry in farms and at slaughterhouses. Before the products reach the market, the processes, which the products go through, have gone management control. Agricultural produce certification and labeling, production/sales record, organic products and processed agricultural products were all standardized as stated in the Act with 6 chapters and 28 articles. Main points of this Act fall under these three categories:

a) High-Quality (ubiquitous) Agricultural Product Certification:

To upgrade the quality and safety of agricultural products, the central competent authority installs a voluntary "ubiquitous' agricultural product certification system on specific agricultural produce and their processed products. Only accredited organizations are allowed for certification process; and only agricultural products, which pass the certification test, may use the Ubiquitous Certification Agricultural Product label. Violators will be penalized.

b) Management of Organic Products and Organic Processed Products: To maintain

To protect the rights of farmers and consumers, the validity of the organic produce labeling and agricultural products and their processed products shall not be sold under the term of "organic" unless the cultivation, processing, packaging and distribution of such products and processed products are certified in accordance with the organic regulations prescribed by the central competent authority. Only accredited organizations may join the certification process; and only agricultural products, which passed process, may use the Certification Agricultural Product label. Violators will be penalized. Imported agricultural products and their processed products shall be certified by certification bodies accredited by the national or international organic accreditation institutes/organizations which were recognized by the central competent authority.

The central competent authority shall review agricultural products before these can be sold under the term of "organic". A transitional period of two years, after the Act was enacted, was given to agricultural product operators to have an "organic" label on their products (agriculture and processed), since this process requires time for them to prepare for necessary documents and their application and for competent authorities to thoroughly examine these documents.

c) Management of traceability agricultural products in Taiwan

The term "traceability" is officially established in subparagraph 9 of paragraph 1 of Article 3 of the Agricultural Production and Certification Act. It is defined as "the ability to trace the information of an agricultural product through specified stages of cultivation, processing, packaging, distribution and marketing, which can be demonstrated by keeping complete records that could be made known to the public."

In order to improve the quality and safety of agricultural products and their processed products, and to protect the public health and the rights of consumers, the central competent authority may implement voluntary traceability certification system. When it is necessary, the central competent authority may announce the items and scope of specific agricultural products to take the traceability certification system compulsorily. In addition, the agricultural product operator, who claims traceability on the agricultural products, shall provide the traceability information of specific agricultural products (including: the product name, the agricultural product operator's name, the production site, the tracing code, the main operational item, the packing date, the certification body's name and the term of certification validity) and shall maintain such data for a certain period of time as prescribed by the central competent authority. (The traceability information record log is necessary to be preserved at least one year. But the certified product indicated availability date is necessary to be preserved at least one year after the expiration of availability date.)

If the agricultural product operator uses a labeled agricultural product without certification, or that the agricultural product operator kept on using labeled agricultural product mark even if he has been ordered to suspend or prohibited from using the label, a fine of no less than NT$200,000, but no more than NT$ 1,000,000 shall be imposed per violation.

Any concerned agricultural product operator who fails to provide the related evidence or records, or refuses, evades or resists the inspection or sampling for examination made by the competent authority shall be pay the amount of no less than NT$100,000, but no more than NT$500,000 for per violation.

Agricultural products, which passed the certification, should indicate the following items before they are put on the market: product name, trace code, information public way, traceability agricultural product logo, and certification body's name ( Fig. 13(1227)).

For the operators' agricultural and processed products labeled as "certified premium agricultural product", "certified traceability" or "organic" in Chinese or in any other foreign languages without certification or which uses other misleading expressions, an amount of no less than NT$60,000, but no more than NT$3 00,000 shall be imposed per violation.

Any concerned agricultural product operator that fails to provide the traceability information of the agricultural product, or fails to reserve such information for a certain period of time, or violates the logo specification or regulations of illustration and usage prescribed shall be pay the amount of no less than NT$3 0,000, but no more than NT$15 0,000 per violation.

Since the "Agricultural Production and Certification Act" was promulgated and implemented, the COA has finished stipulating eight sub-regulations in less than four months, namely: Enforcement Rules of Regulations Regarding Production and Certification of Agricultural Products; Certifying Regulations of Traceability Agricultural Products; Certifying Regulations of Quality Agricultural Products; Certifying Regulations of Organic Agricultural Products and Organic Agricultural Processed Items; Regulations of Imported Organic Agricultural Products and Organic Agricultural Processed Items; Regulations of Certification Institutes of Agricultural Products; Regulations of Insignias of Agricultural Products; and Regulations of Examination and Sampling Inspection in succession. These aim to build a milestone for the institutionalization of Taiwan's safety agriculture.

2) Stipulated and integrated safety agricultural products logos

As mentioned earlier, the COA had advanced quite a few measures related to safety agriculture, stipulating criteria like Good Agriculture Practice (GAP), Quality Agricultural Product CAS, and Organic Agricultural Product in the past. In order to make it possible for consumers to identify safety agricultural products without much difficulty and to make their purchases with much self-assurance, the COA depend on the implementation of traceability of agricultural products for Taiwan's safety agricultural products. The COA finished stipulating TAP ( Fig. 14(1083)), OTAP ( Fig. 15(1080)) and UTAP ( Fig. 16(1059)). The "T" in TAP stands for traceability and Taiwan at the same time. Therefore, it can be inferred that TAP signifies Taiwan's agricultural products endowed with traceability information.

The COA announced that it would set into action the three major certifying criteria, namely: Traceability Agricultural Product (TAP), Organic Traceability Agricultural Product (OTAP) and Ubiquitous Traceability Agricultural Product (UTAP), starting on June 14, 2007. It planned to integrate all certifying criteria currently used in the market using these three major certifying criteria by 2010 and advance the policy of safety agriculture by all means.

Moreover, the COA urged all consumers to consider the three certifying criteria (TAP, OTAP and UTAP) when shopping for agricultural products. Starting 2008, these entire original GAP certifying criteria of CAS quality agricultural products will be converted into TAP without any exemption. Then, in 2009, all organic certifying criteria will be converted into OTAP without any exemption as well. Eventually, the certifying criteria of CAS quality agricultural products currently available in the market will all be converted into UTAP in 2010.

3) Enacted and promulgated 112 TGAP items

As of August 31, 2007, the COA has already enacted and promulgated 112 TGAP items including: 10 aquatic product items, 7 livestock product items and 95 agriculture and food product items (including 56 general crops items, 39 organic crops items). The COA estimated that it would be able to enact and promulgate 142 TGAP items before the end of 2007 including: 117 items (including 73 general crops items, 44 organic crops items), 14 aquatic product items and 11 livestock product items.

4) Expanded screening of prevention and treatment agrochemicals, strengthened equipment and the ability to check the agrochemicals residues

a) Expanded screening of prevention and treatment agrochemicals

The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine of the COA actively coordinated each District Agricultural Research and Extension Station of the COA. They also examined the additional prevention and treatment agrochemicals for enacting TGAP, conducted field test earnestly, renewed plant protection handbook. In addition, they enhanced the recommendation for different kinds of agrochemicals used for domestic production of agricultural products and to extend integrated pest management (IPM) practices.

Due to insufficiency of the partial prevention and treatment for agrochemicals, there is till no approved and registered legal agrochemicals that could be used. Therefore, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine of the COA has taken temporary measures during the transition period, and, in special case; they promulgated the applied methods and scopes of agrochemicals to solve the urgency of prevention and insufficiency of the partial prevention and treatment of agrochemicals.

b) Strengthened equipment and the ability to check the agrochemicals residues

In order to promote the national agricultural product examination capacity the COA has assisted universities and NAIF to set up the "regional inspection center", and subsidized inspectors of the said center for them to expand their inspection capacity. In 2007, the COA will propose the establishment of 21 regional inspection centers/laboratories in suitable places of Taiwan to help execute the safe inspection service of all agricultural products and processed goods.

5) Fast-track the establishment of the fair third-party audit system

The most urgent task to promote Agricultural Products Traceability System is to fast track the establishment of the certification organization is. By August 2007, there would be 17 proposed accreditation applicants.

With the joint venture of Taiwan Accreditation Foundation and the COA, Food Safety Institute International-Asia-Pacific Office (FSI International) was granted a certificate on May 14 to become the first certification body of traceability agricultural products to pass accreditation in Taiwan. Under the strict certification of FSI International, eggs from Shih-An Farm, beef tomatoes from Golden-Triangle Cooperative, vegetables from Hankuang Vegetable and Fruit Production Cooperative and chicken from Dachan Great Wall all passed the certification process and their related products are expected to hit the market

On July 4, Universal Certification Group Company and National Taiwan Ocean University got the accreditation. Their certification contains general crops, cultivation fish and fish processing separately. The Animal Technology Institute Taiwan Science and Research also got the accreditation on August 8. Its certification includes livestock and poultry (slaughter and minute cuts were not included). Taiwan Premium Agricultural Products Foundation, NAIF, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology got the accreditation on September 5, with certification that ranges from general crops, organic crops, livestock, poultry, cultivation fish and fish processing. The COA estimated that 9 or 10 organizations that applied to TAF would possibly get the accreditation in 2007.

As of September 6, 2007, there are 19 agricultural product operators who have passed certification the certification. The number of agricultural product operators applying for certification is growing rapidly because of higher market prices and public concern on food safety and environmental sustainability.

6) Strengthening education and training, guidance and extension, including general extension training, intra-audit training

The COA is strengthening the Agricultural Products Traceability System and its related training and study courses positively. In 2007, the COA will hold the following events such as: "International IRCA/IATCA ISO 9000 Training" (4 classes); "International IRCA/IATCA ISO 22000 Training" (4 classes); Agricultural Products Traceability System Training (245 classes), specifically, intra-audit training (15 classes), generally crops (134 classes), rice (12 classes), organic agricultural products (45 classes), aquatic products (35 classes), pig (10 classes), poultry (10 classes), and so on.

7) Enhanced the supply and sales proportion of traceability agricultural products in domestic chain-supermarkets, hypermarkets and discount retail chains

The COA is counseling the Production and Marketing groups for them to be able coordinate and cooperate with domestic chain-markets, hypermarkets and discount retail chains. The will then be taught of ways in supplying agricultural products and getting the certification. They will also be assisted on selling their products to markets.

8) Enhanced traceability information-searching devices

The certified traceability agricultural products would carry the certification insignias for quick identification. Also, consumers may log on to TAFTS to inquire for information regarding traceability of agricultural products they purchased. Currently, the COA has installed information-searching devices in Jason's Supermarket in Taipei 101, Dayeh Takashimaya Supermarket in Tian-Mu Taipei, GAN-Jai-Den in Shin-Zhu Scientific and Technical Park Zone to help consumers search relevant information. The COA is expected to install more information-searching devices to come up with a total of 130 before 2007 ends in Carrefour, RT-MART, Hsin-Nong Supermarket, Taisuco Hypermarket, Welcome Supermarket, and other places where traceability agricultural products are being sold. With the increased supply of the of certified traceability agricultural products, the COA will install more information-searching devices gradually in associated markets to facilitate the on-line information-searching tasks of the consumers and ensure their safety consumption.

Summary and Conclusion

Aside from the rise in come, the impact from globalization and free trade, hygiene and safety of agricultural products is one of the public concerns in Taiwan. In order to build a safe, healthy-diet environment, Taiwan government has applied the GAP system since 1994. However, the first GAP system was basically, a product safety-oriented management system rather than a process safety-oriented system. The main purpose of the first GAP system was to reduce the amount of residues of agrochemicals to a level lower than the requirement of food safety regulations. Application of agrochemicals was a major concern of the management protocol thus; objective of the original Taiwan GAP logo certification system is to ensure the safety of crop products, mainly fruits and vegetables.

In addition, to boost high quality agricultural products and ensure the safety consumption, the central competent authority, such as COA, has developed measures for safety agricultural products. They have stipulated criteria like Quality Agricultural Products CAS systems, Organic Agricultural Products and logos from 1997 and 1989, respectively.

After joining WTO, Taiwan met experiences the impact of globalization and market liberalization. Improving the international competitive edge of domestic agricultural products has become an important issue of the current agricultural policies. At the same time, public awareness on food safety and environmental sustainability has apparently worsened along with the rapid social economic growth in Taiwan. The public, thus, expected more transparency on food production processes. The central competent authority then, requires a more precise and efficient solution to reduce risks on food safety and to maintain environmental sustainability. Given those scenarios, the COA initiated the trial plan of Agricultural Products Traceability System in 2004 to provide consumers with safe agricultural products and ensure worry-free food consumption.

Since then, the COA implemented trial plans every year, and achieved the predetermined targets year by year, including the following.

  • 1) Enacted and promulgated 112 TGAP items
  • 2) Expanded screening of agrochemicals, strengthened equipment and the ability to check the agrochemicals residues
  • 3) Developed TAFTS and installed traceability information-searching devices
  • 4) Constructed independent fair third-party audit system
  • 5) Promulgated the "Agricultural Production and Certification Act"
  • 6) Stipulated and integrated safety agriculture logos to be TAP, OTAP, and UTAP.
  • 7) Strengthened education and training, guidance and extension of Agricultural Products Traceability System
  • 8) Enhanced the supply and sales proportion of traceability agricultural products in domestic chain-supermarkets, hypermarkets and discount retail chains

With the global economics, trade environment, and the growing public concern for food safety, the Agricultural Products Traceability System practice seemed to be a stable and irreversible answer. Thus, the system, from its trial stage, has been promoted and implemented comprehensively since 2007.

TAP, on the other hand, became the foundation of food safety in Taiwan. The COA is dedicated for advancing the traceability system of agricultural products aggressively to allow safety agriculture and become more sound and solid. In the future, consumers will be able to meet the same safety standard of agricultural products of advanced countries. The traceability system benefits a holistic production of safety agricultural products, gives additional value to the products and international competitiveness. It assures consumers of safety consumption, and will eventually create a new era of safety agriculture.

The numbers of TAP farms are growing rapidly, because of higher market prices and public concern on food safety and environmental sustainability. It is believed that the traceability system will develop continually, and a comprehensive revolution in Taiwan's food safety will soon be experienced.

A complete Agricultural Products Traceability System should include necessary processes and essential measures, which were discussed earlier. It should establish perfect measures from production stage, to agricultural product operators down to the production and various marketing stages (including any individual who engages in the processing, packaging, import, distribution or marketing business of agricultural products must obey various standards such as GMP, GHP, ISO 22000, and many others). In the future, the Agricultural Products Traceability System shall carry on the risk management; handle records and public traceable information, to establish a safe and reliable agricultural product system from producing to selling. By doing these, the public can truly and effectively distinguish inferior, cheap and unsafe imported food products. It is necessary to promote the international competitiveness of domestic agricultural products and maintain a sustainable agriculture development to safeguard the rights and interests of the producers, the distributors, and consumers.

References

  • Huu-Sheng, Lur. 2005. Progress of Application of Gap and Traceability in Taiwan. Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) in Asia and Oceania, Food & Fertilizer Technology Center, 24-28 Oct. 2005, pp.62-71.

Index of Images

Figure 1 The Original Taiwan Gap Logo.

Figure 1 The Original Taiwan Gap Logo.

Figure 2 The Current Gap System Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables.

Figure 2 The Current Gap System Scheme for Fruit and Vegetables.

Figure 3 The Premium Food Cas Logo.

Figure 3 The Premium Food Cas Logo.

Figure 4 The Cas Logo Certificate.

Figure 4 The Cas Logo Certificate.

Figure 5 The Premium Aquatic Product Cas Logo.

Figure 5 The Premium Aquatic Product Cas Logo.

Figure 6 The Premium Forest Product Cas Logo.

Figure 6 The Premium Forest Product Cas Logo.

Figure 7 The Second Generation Gap Logo.

Figure 7 The Second Generation Gap Logo.

Figure 8 The Unified Organic Agricultural Products Logo.

Figure 8 The Unified Organic Agricultural Products Logo.

Figure 9 The Scheme of Record Data Management.

Figure 9 The Scheme of Record Data Management.

Figure 10 The Counseling Committee's Scheme.

Figure 10 The Counseling Committee's Scheme.

Figure 11 The Scheme of the Third-Party Accreditation-Certification System in Taiwan.

Figure 11 The Scheme of the Third-Party Accreditation-Certification System in Taiwan.

Figure 12 The Original Traceability Agricultural Products Logo.

Figure 12 The Original Traceability Agricultural Products Logo.

Figure 13 Label Form of Traceability Agricultural Product

Figure 13 Label Form of Traceability Agricultural Product

Figure 14 The Logo of Traceability Agricultural Product.

Figure 14 The Logo of Traceability Agricultural Product.

Figure 15 The Logo of Organic Traceability Agricultural Product.

Figure 15 The Logo of Organic Traceability Agricultural Product.

Figure 16 The Logo of Ubiquitous Traceability Agricultural Product.

Figure 16 The Logo of Ubiquitous Traceability Agricultural Product.

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