Motivation gives better traceability

Lidunn Mosaker Boge

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Portrettbilde av Kine Mari Karlsen
Kine Mari Karlsen

Senior Scientist
Phone: +47 472 60 878

12. September 2011



“Motivation for implementing traceability is strongly linked to the costs and benefits of using traceability. If the companies do not see the benefits, they will not make the necessary investments and changes to implement it,” says Scientist Kine Mari Karlsen at Nofima, who last week presented her doctoral thesis on traceability.

The requirements relating to the documentation of food have increased markedly in recent years. Consumers and companies alike are interested in obtaining more information concerning the origin, production processes and other properties of the foods.


The food scandals of the 1990s resulted in traceability being included in the Food Act. This act requires companies to document their suppliers and customers. Traceability systems may be used to document various properties and processes in the production of food, such as quality and optimising of production.

If Norwegian seafood companies only want to fulfil the legislation in the Food Act, they do not have to do anything as they already fulfil this legislation. However, if they shall use the information to optimise the production internally in the company, they should trace more of the processes.

Costs and benefits

Motivation for implementing traceability is strongly linked to the costs and benefits. Take for instance the following scenario:

A production plant distribues its fish to a wholesaler who in turn distributes the fish to a supermarket. The supermarket is extremely keen to offer its customers more detailed information about the fish, such as its origin, and asks the wholesaler to arrange this. The wholesaler then needs to convince the production plant that it needs to send more information about its fish, after which the manager of the production plant asks himself: What do we get in return for doing this?

“The key is to develop a traceability system based on the user’s needs, and at a price that is acceptable,” says Karlsen.

Not complicated

“Implementing traceability does not need to be complicated. It depends on what information you require and whether the system will contain little or a lot of information,” says Nofima Scientist Kine Mari Karlsen.

The extent of the information to be traced depends on what the information will be used for.

“Not all companies need to trace every last detail of the process, but can manage with the statutory requirements. In other places it is sensible to trace much of what happens, for example to be able to increase the efficiency of the company and achieve better control of production.”

During her doctoral project, Karlsen has studied how different levels of traceability influence the implementation of traceability in seafood companies. This has not been documented in previous studies.

Different levels

The study was conducted by mapping the loss of information in three different supply chains (clipfish, fresh fish and farmed salmon), as well as studying critical criteria in the implementation of traceability for fresh fish.

In addition, she studied different traceability levels in a supply chain for farmed salmon. The study demonstrates that the traceability level has an important role in the implementation of traceability in seafood companies.

Kine Mari Karlsen presented her doctoral thesis on August 26, 2011. Her doctoral thesis, which is entitled “Granularity and its importance for traceability in seafood supply chains”, provides new knowledge of relevance for practical implementation of traceability in seafood companies, as well as for development of theory and methodology for traceability.

The doctoral project is based on results from projects financed by the Fishery and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund (FHF) and Innovation Norway.

Kine Mari Karlsen, who grew up in a fishing family on the island of Vannøya, has a Master of Science degree. She is employed as a scientist at Nofima, where she is working on various issues attached to traceability.

Industrial Economics  

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