Ethical Traceability and Informed Food Choice

  • Christian Coff
  • Michiel Korthals
  • David Barling
Part of the The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics book series (LEAF, volume 15)

The traceability of food and feed emerged as a focus for political attention and regulation at both national and international governmental levels at the turn of the millennium. The industrialization of food production and manufacture, and the complexities and anonymity of modern supply chains have been accompanied by a new wave of concerns around the safety and quality of the food supply. The emergent concept of keeping track of food products and their different ingredients through the various stages from field to plate offers a potential means of managing some of the recent safety and quality concerns around food. Food traceability covers a range of overlapping objectives, which are outlined below, and so has a wide potential appeal, to regulators, producers, processors, retailers and consumers alike.

In this chapter, we seek to establish the range of ethical concerns around food, drawing from an emerging canon of work on food ethics, and to look at the ways in which the concept of ethical traceability can enhance the public good of existing traceability systems. Traceability relates to where and how foods are produced. It follows that it has the potential to be developed as a tool for providing information to consumers that addresses their concerns about food production. As traceability retells the history of a food, it can address the ethical, as well as the practical and physical, aspects of that history, enabling more informed food choice. The importance of ethical traceability for consumers is essentially twofold: firstly, it can help them make informed food choices; and secondly, it can act as a (democratizing) means for enabling consumers to participate more fully as citizens in the shaping of the contemporary food supply. And ethical traceability has a third benefit, this time for food producers, who can use it as a tool for managing the ethical aspects of their own production practices and communicating ethical values about their products. In the following sections, the nature of food traceability and its differing but overlapping objectives are explained, and the role of ethical traceability is elaborated.


Supply Chain Food Choice Production Practice Ethical Consumer Traceability Link 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Coff
    • 1
  • Michiel Korthals
    • 2
  • David Barling
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Ethics and LawDenmark
  2. 2.Applied Philosophy GroupWageningen UniversityNetherlands
  3. 3.Centre for Food PolicyCity UniversityUK

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