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Abstract

One of the core requests in assuring competitiveness and sustainability in the food value chain is transparency. Food is a basic human need and as such of paramount interest to consumers. They expect retail to provide guarantees assuring that food is safe to eat and of the quality they request. Increasingly, interests of consumers reach beyond these basic needs but involve environmental or ethical aspects related to the production and distribution of food. The provision of the guarantees is communicated to consumers through claims that are expressed in messages (‘food is safe’), signals (‘food miles’), labels of various kind, or just clusters of information items (as e.g. ‘origin’). Appropriate communication provides transparency to consumers and allowed them to ‘make informed decisions’ that fit their needs. The complexity of the sector, the absence of focal players in the field, the complexity in the collection, processing and communication of information, and limitations in information and network technology have made it difficult to find concepts and solutions that could solve the transparency problem at consumers’ end. This is where the Future Internet provides opportunities that allowed to meet the challenge and to appropriately address the transparency problem. This paper introduces into the subject through a detailed outline of the transparency complexity of the food sector and the requirements on concepts and systems that could deal with it. This is followed by a presentation and discussion of a suitable concept, building on network elements of the Future Internet. The concept is based on a range of generic functionalities and system components that provide stability but also assure that the concept could easily be adapted to a broad range of sector scenarios in different product lines and food value chain organizations.

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