The term Traceability is formed by Trace and Ability. Traceability is the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption through all stages of production, processing and distribution. In the event of a food incident it enables the identification and subsequent withdrawal or recall of unsafe food from the market. If the food has not reached the consumer, a trade withdrawal is undertaken. If the food has reached the consumer, a product recall is undertaken which includes notification of the consumer through in-store notices and press releases.


Traceability and product recall are important as they enable food businesses to respond quickly to food safety/quality incidents thereby ensuring that consumer exposure to the affected product is prevented or minimised. A good traceability system ensures that withdrawals/recalls are limited to implicated products, thereby minimising disruption to trade and company finances.

Main Regulations around the globe

Legal requirements, International Standards and Private Voluntary Standards

  • ISO 22000:2005 - Traceability in the Feed and FoodChain
  • Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) Guidance Document - CIES The Food Business Forum
  • European Union Food Regulation Directive 178/2002
  • US Bioterrorism Act 2002
  • USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Directive 8080
  • Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR)
  • Canadian Food Traceability Data Standard (CFTDS)
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency recall system
  • The British Retail Consortium Global Food Standard
  • SQF (Safe Quality Food) - SQFI is a Division of the Food Marketing Institute
  • International Featured Standards (IFS)
  • GS1 Traceability Standard - from GSMP's Traceability Industry requirements team (IRT)
  • Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC) Feed Materials Assurance Scheme


  • Food scares
    • BSE/Mad Cow : 1996-2000-2002
    • Dioxins 2002
    • Sheep disease (2003)
    • Bird Flue (2006), Swine flu
    • 2011 E.Coli O104:H4 outbreak
    • 2013 meat adulteration scandal
  • Loss of consumers confidence in supply
  • Necessary to improve transparency
  • Avoid misleading consumers
  • By sufficient and clear labelling

Aims of implementing traceability

For the competent authorities the implementation and use of robust and effective traceability systems in the food chain can contribute to a number of aims, for example:

  • Promoting food safety by enabling a better targeted and more rapid response to food incidents.
  • Improving food law enforcement by enabling better access to information about food products and their constituents.
  • Providing information to support labelling claims and aid informed choices by consumers.
  • Improving the effectiveness of the action taken in response to surveys of food.
  • To identify the responsible organisations in the food and feed chain.

Benefits of traceability

There are also clear benefits for industry to be gained from such systems, for example:

  • To support food safety and/or quality objectives, and meet customer specification.
  • To fulfil and local, regional, or international regulations or standards, as applicable.
  • To communicate information to relevant stakeholders and consumers through the provision of reliable information to regulators, customers and consumers.
  • Improved consumer protection through better targeted and more rapid recalls and/or withdrawals.
  • Greater efficiency within businesses, with more information to assist in process control and management, e.g. in stock control and quality control.
  • To support authenticity claims about products, e.g. to authenticate origin and production claims.
  • Deterrence of fraud.

Approach in the European Union (EU)

  • Food Business Operators (FBO) have the primary responsibility for safety
    • Feed manufactures, Farmers and Food business operator is best placed to devise a safe system for supplying food and ensuring that the food it supplies is safe
  • Whole chain - from farm to fork - approach
    • In order to ensure the safety of food, It's necessary to consider all aspects of the food production chain as a continuum from and including primary production
  • Risk-based, Scientific Evidence
    • Measures adopted by Member States
    • Should generally be based on risk analysis
    • Central Authority (CA) monitor and enforce this responsibility through the operation of national surveillance and control systems

Covered operators

  • Producers, fishermen
  • Transporting
  • Storing
  • Processing / manufacturing
  • Catering
  • Retailers
  • Do not concern operators on Third countries (not directly) and consumers

Not Covered

  • Pesticides, fertilizers
  • Medicines for animals / veterinary medicines
  • Packing materials
  • Plant substances, sowing seeds

Demands of Traceability and Labelling

  • Do not give more information to consumers
  • Do not demand more from labelling
  • Do not prevent mistakes but can effect on recalls - less and easier to do - Internal traceability?
  • 1760 / 2000 Labelling Beef and Beef Products
  • BUT demands more from operators / companies to find the mistake!

What are those Traceability systems and Methods?

  • EDI - Electronic Data Interchange
  • RFID Radio Frequency Identification and
  • EPC Electronic Product Code
  • Can be different; "paper and pen" - data system
  • Business operators must include traceability in their HACCP-system, to secure the identity from whom, and to whom products has been delivered
  • The information have to be given to authority when demanded
  • Demands of systematic bookkeeping of the information
  • Necessary information of traceability

Necessary information of Traceability

  • Minimum level of information - the first category:
    • Suppliers name, address and the description of products delivered
    • Buyers name, address and the description of products sold
    • Date of delivery
  • Additional information - the second category:
    • Quantity and volume (weight and/or numbers of cartons/cans/bags)
    • Lot number (if used)
    • More detailed description of the product (pre-packed / bulk)

Time of records keeping

  • 5 years
    • General rule for products without self life
      • sugar, salt, vinegar
    • The other products
      • flours, spices, drinks
  • Shelf-life + 6 month
  • Fresh products with a use-by date destined directly to final consumer
    • packed meat of chicken
  • 6 months
  • Products without specified use-by date and destined directly to final consumer
    • fruits, vegetables and non-packed products

Overall responsibilities and actions - Authorities

  • Monitor production, processing and distribution of food and feed products to ensure that operators have traceability system in place
  • Fix and enforce appropriate penalties for operators that do not meet EU requirements on traceability
  • Trace the risk backwards and forwards along the food chain
  • Notify the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed

Overall responsibilities and actions - Food business operators

  • Precautionary principle; If reason to suspect unsafe food: FBO needs to withdraw products from market / recall from consumers
  • Identify and document information on products "one step forward and one step back" in the food chain
  • Destroy any batch, lot consignment of feed that does not satisfy food safety requirements
  • Immediately inform the competent authorities of risk and of the action it has taken


  • supplier traceability (one step back),
  • process traceability (internal), and
  • customer traceability (one step forward).
  • Linked to these basic components of traceability are efficient record keeping and the ability to provide relevant information on demand.
  • There are two categories of information relating to traceability.
    • Internal traceability is the recordkeeping of a product within a particular operation, company or production facility. It relates the data about raw materials and processes to the final product before it is delivered
    • External or chain traceability, which relates to product information that an operation receives from suppliers (the preceding point in the supply chain) or provides to customers (the next point in the food chain).

Traceability information that is external and internal to a food business operation is given in the attached diagram.


Traceability is an important tool, need it for Food Safety, Labelling and Recalls.

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