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Simon  Hopes

mikedavid|United States

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The Role of Food Traceability Systems in Food Safety

Oct 10, 2019

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Disease outbreaks caused by food borne pathogens are highly detrimental to food manufacturing companies. Indeed, the best way to prevent these outbreaks is for companies to increase transparency in the supply chain as well as implement traceability tools. The ultimate goal of public health safety involves an entire process, which begins by incorporating a sound food traceability system into the manufacturing, production, and food distribution stages.


A food traceability system is investigative in nature. In some instances, it can be retroactive where the assessment of the problem only begins when an outbreak occurs. What is more important with food traceability is to ensure that it can proactively assist companies in preventing health and safety emergencies. A timelier response to addressing problems as they occur during the production process is key to stopping public exposure. Therefore, what is necessary is to enhance training and implementation to get more value out of the data and documentation derived from food tracing.


Food traceability as an essential requirement in food production


Modern food manufacturing programs require food traceability systems, together with other quality control measures. Fortunately, regulatory bodies inspect compliance and ensure that there are legal consequences if a company does not comply. But are these regulations sufficient to prevent outbreaks in the future?


There are potential gaps, such as in the case of what happens when there is a recall. The minimum requirement is to trace where the product came from and how it was handled. But if the company has a well-implemented food traceability system, it can ensure faster response time and resolution in emergencies. It has excellent value, especially in rebuilding and maintaining the company’s reputation.


Moreover, a food traceability system also acts as a defence when the company is subject to a claim. With detailed information available, the company stands a better chance when there is an ongoing food safety investigation.


Required elements in a food traceability system


There are two basic elements in a food traceability system: capturing data and keeping a thorough record. But recording information needs to focus on important tracking events. These include processes where products or materials are transferred from one facility to another, used to produce an entirely new end product, as well as any point where it is deemed critical to trace data. These tracking events are further identified as:


  • Input transformation or when a specific raw ingredient is used to produce a new end product
  • Output transformation or manipulating the material to create a new product
  • Transportation and distribution
  • Storage and disposal
  • Consumption

In each of these events, it is critical to have a traceability system that can efficiently extract essential details. There needs to be a digital capturing element, as well as a seamless process of storing and retrieving this information.


The good thing is, companies today can make use of applications and software developed by various providers. Some of these can be proprietary and bespoke according to the needs of the company. No reputable company involved in food processing and production should be without a robust food traceability system in place. It is not only a regulatory requirement but also a necessary step in ensuring public health safety.