As food traceability regulations continue to evolve, it can be difficult to navigate requirements and ensure you remain compliant everywhere you do business. Find out more about the traceability of food products in this guide from Antares Vision Group and rfxcel.
Understanding food traceability
In broad terms, traceability is the process of utilizing data to know the history of everything in your supply chain — every input and ingredient, every finished product. Traceability empowers you to know where something came from, where it has been, and where it is right now. It’s the ability to find granular details about the past and present of an item.
No matter your role in the supply chain, food traceability can play a vital role in securing and improving your business, from ensuring you comply with regulations to helping manage risks (e.g., making recalls faster and more accurate) and connecting with consumers.
Benefits of food traceability
The advantages of a strong food traceability system for you, your partners, and your customers include:
- Food safety: Traceability reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses and helps ensure your products are safe for consumption.
- Risk mitigation: If a food safety issue does arise, traceability facilitates prompt, informed responses. For example, traceability speeds food recalls and targeted product withdrawals to minimize the impact on public health and lessen interruptions to your operations.
- Operational efficiency: Food traceability solutions act across your supply chain to improve operations and make it easier to manage your inventory.
- Trust: Food traceability can help build consumer trust and confidence through transparent processes and demonstrating that you are a reliable brand whose products are exactly what you say they are.
Key elements of food traceability
The primary components of a good food traceability system include:
- Identification: Companies must be able to trace individual products and raw materials back to specific locations, batches, lots, etc.
- Product tracing: Each product must be traceable from farm to fork, with granular documentation that captures its journey at every stage of the supply chain.
- Data capture and management: A strong, centralized system is needed for collecting, analyzing, sharing, and storing traceability records.
- Authentication: Verification tools ensure the accuracy and integrity of food traceability data and can help resolve errors before they affect other parts of the supply chain.
Implementing food traceability systems
Here are some things to consider if you want to implement a new food traceability solution or improve your existing systems:
- Evaluate: Start by assessing traceability requirements and regulatory obligations. Examine what industry leaders are doing to identify best practices and opportunities.
- Select tools: Choose the appropriate traceability technologies and systems for the type of products you grow, pack, process, distribute, etc. (Working with a reliable, experienced solution provider is essential.)
- Implement processes: Establish your traceability protocols and standard operating procedures, training relevant staff. (Again, make sure you’re working with a solution provider that will work with you and your team to ensure implementation is quick and efficient.)
- Collaborate: Work with partners and stakeholders to implement traceability measures across the supply chain.
Food traceability in action: U.S. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
Passed in 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) made sweeping reforms to food safety regulations in the United States. The legislation empowered the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create and enforce rules on how food is harvested, processed, stored, and distributed throughout the United States.
FSMA’s No. 1 goal is to reduce the rates of illness from foodborne pathogens; food traceability is an important component of the FDA’s strategy to achieve that goal. The Agency’s primary guidance for traceability is the Food Traceability Final Rule, which went into effect in November 2022. It establishes additional traceability recordkeeping requirements for businesses that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL).
These food supply chain stakeholders are responsible for establishing and maintaining critical tracking events (CTEs) and associated key data elements (KDEs) for events such as harvesting, cooling, packing, and receiving. CTEs and KDEs are the building blocks of food traceability under FSMA. Read our food traceability white paper to learn how they work.
What food products are required to be traced under FSMA?
FSMA’s Food Traceability Final Rule sets the recordkeeping requirements for any business that manufactures, processes, packs, or holds foods on the Food Traceability List, which includes almost 20 types of food, such as:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Leafy greens
- Nut butters
- Soft cheeses
- Ready-to-eat deli salads
Final thoughts: food traceability
Traceability is essential to ensure the safety, transparency, and quality of the global food supply chain. Our goal is to equip businesses with modern food traceability solutions that improve operational efficiencies, comply with regulations, foster consumer confidence, and help create a more secure and transparent food industry. Offering end-to-end traceability, visibility, and transparency, our solutions for the food and beverage industry make it easy to track and trace products across every step of the supply chain. Contact us today to speak with one of our traceability experts and see a short demo of how our solutions work.