Traceability systems that track both physical entities and their less tangible attributes are increasingly widely used in contemporary food supply to meet a range of regulatory and commercial objectives, including a growing number of ethical concerns. Even with a traditional combinable and blended food crop such as wheat to bread there is clear evidence of traceability from the variety and crop in the field through to the mill to the bakery to the shelf. This study examines the traceability systems that have emerged in the wheat to bread supply in the UK, and the ethical concerns that have emerged within this supply process. The study reveals that these ethical concerns are dynamic and evolving and are contested. In the case of the supply chains studied, a priority concern with safety aspects has been followed by an emerging greater focus upon the provenance of the wheat and flour and upon the environmental impacts of the more industrialized supply chains. A study of the traceability schemes in the chains and the views of the stakeholders reflects quite restricted ‘fields of ethical vision’. The governance and the transmission of information along the chains to the final consumer are quite restricted and partial, inhibiting transparency. The realization of greater transparency and ethical traceability to address different moral perspectives will need further changes in the governance and operation of the supply chains
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-278
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2009


  • traceability
  • ethical concerns
  • food supply chains
  • wheat
  • food policy


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