Heidi Spurrell | 8th February 2021 | 4min read

At Food Made Good we recognise the importance of traceability and transparency in supply chains. In fact, we think these two things are essential to creating a more sustainable food system. So do you feel confident that you know exactly where and how your produce came to be in your restaurant or on your plate? Read on to see how one organisation is working hard to help businesses and consumers get the full picture of their seafood menu choices.



According to a report published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)[1], the proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels decreased from 90% in 1974 to 66% in 2017. Overfishing[2] causes a domino effect in the ecosystem and thus pushes it out of balance. A reduction in fish species can lead to extinction and endangerment of all other species due to their close links in the aquatic ecosystem.

As we have previously highlighted, in Hong Kong, we have the second largest per capita consumption of seafood in Asia, and eighth largest in the world[3], with an immense consumption level of around 70g per day[4]. Because of this high level of consumption, it is ever more important to have assurance of the products that we are eating, which in turn provide visibility on the supply chain origins, supply chain actors and the standards which have been met throughout the chain.



In recent years we are witnessing more headlines about food fraud[5][6] as well as international brands caught unaware of the risks that exist in their supply chains. Not only does this have the potential to cause negative social and environmental impacts, it also affects brand reputation and consumer trust, and rights.[7]

Traceability in seafood globally is a significant industry, and a wider variety of traceability services and tools are available. These include harvester tools (such as vessel monitoring and electronic log books) traceability software solutions, due diligence measures (such as DNA testing and verification), traceability initiatives (such as industry trade groups) and non-profit initiatives[8]. In addition to these, aquaculture certification schemes play an important role. The FAO indicates there are over 30 schemes that cover a broad range of issues. These differing schemes are broken down to be promoted by different stakeholders e.g. retailers, aquaculture industry, governments, and NGOs[9]. At Food Made Good we recognise three key global schemes with robust traceability mechanisms: ASCGGN (Global GAP), BAP (Global Aquaculture Alliance).



Against the backdrop of increased competition with imported aquatic food products and lack of consumer confidence in food safety, the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) implemented the Accredited Fish Farm Scheme (AFFS) in 2005 to promote the sustainability of the aquaculture industry in Hong Kong and regain consumer confidence in aquaculture products[10]. Last year, the AFCD extended the AFFS certification for more aquaculture products, including shrimp, crab and shellfish. As of 2019, 122 aquaculture farms have been accredited under the scheme[11].

The scheme has incorporated a farm-to-table traceability mechanism centred around Quick-Response (QR) codes. The AFCD issues a certificate of compliance for aquaculture products that have passed quality assurance tests (such as ruling out the presence of malachite green, exceedances of drug residue limits and unsafe levels of heavy metals). These aquaculture products are sold with specific tags bearing a unique traceable QR code to let the public trace the source of their purchases. By scanning the QR code, consumers can obtain information about:

  1. The origin of the products;
  2. The safety test results;
  3. Information about the fish farm; and
  4. The aquatic cultured species.

Customers can also enter the unique 8-digit number printed on the tag to retrieve information about their purchases via the AFFS website[12].

Images: A fish product with a tag, the tag with logo  and a QR code; Source:


The AFFS QR code traceability mechanism benefits three main stakeholder groups:

  1. For consumers, they are able to quickly understand more about the source of the aquatic products they are purchasing;
  2. For producers, in the spirit of full disclosure, they are building trust around the safety of their products, whilst also enhancing the interaction and relationship between producers and consumers; and
  3. For distributors, in the event of a food safety incident, distributors can quickly identify the source of products and implement any necessary remediation strategies.



To publicise and promote the marketing of fish products under the AFFS, the AFCD collaborated with the Fish Marketing Organization (FMO) on the launch of a mobile app – “Local Fresh”. The app serves as a one-stop local fish and vegetable ordering platform and allows consumers to scan the QR code of the products to gain more information on their provenance. The app provides information on local fishery products where accredited products can be purchased, product promotions as well as recipes. Scroll down to get the QR Code.


Looking ahead, there are increasing motivations to expand the use of traceability in the global seafood sector due to increased media attention on the legal and social risks in some supply chains, governmental requirements and private-sector sustainability commitments[13].

For example, Taiwan has introduced a QR-based traceability mechanism for sustainable seafood – “Taiwan Seafood Production Traceability System” to let consumers understand the sources of fish products. Consumers in Taiwan will be able to review information about the products by scanning the QR code on the fisheries products[14].  The scheme has been in place since 2002, delivered by the Taiwan Certification Centre which is sponsored by the government[15]. Today, the scheme has 2086 vendors across 22 regions[16].



To us at Food Made Good, we recognise the importance of traceability and transparency in supply chains as an essential part of the solution to creating a more sustainable food system. We continually encourage our members (through our audit programme, toolkits and events) to start exploring these topics and have conversations with suppliers (of all products) to understand the traceability and transparency of the supply chain.

Do you know exactly where your ingredients have come from? Where they’ve been before you purchased them and who is working within that supply chain? It is no longer enough to just know your headline supplier, with ever more complex food supply systems, asking questions and investigating further down the supply chain is essential to showing you the full picture.

The AFCD and AFFS provide an excellent solution to many foodservice businesses, as well as consumers in Hong Kong so if you haven’t already, do check them out.


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