Consumers may not be aware of it, but a lot goes on behind the scenes to guarantee the quality and safety of every food product sold in stores. One process that is vital to every company involved in food manufacturing and processing is traceability. Its benefits go beyond increasing efficiency, but most importantly, it minimizes potential incidents that involve product safety.

What is food traceability?

Food traceability refers to individual processes and functions that provide a way to keep track, record, and trace the flow of every ingredient throughout manufacturing and distribution. With this system in place, you can locate any product or component anywhere it is in the supply chain.

Various components of food traceability

Every food traceability system consists of two parts – tracing and tracking. Tracing correctly handles documentation of historical data as a product moves from one stage of the supply chain to another. Whether it is related to individual ingredients or batches of final products, an excellent system should be able to keep detailed information every step of the way.

Tracking, on the other hand, refers to the ability to precisely locate or pinpoint where a specific product is headed by following its movement within the supply chain until it reaches the consumer. In both of these steps, it should be possible to track or trace individual units and batches.

Why is traceability essential to the food industry?

Food supply chains continue to become more complex and more significant in scale. Many companies supply products not only locally but also globally. As such, it only makes sense to ensure that an adequate food traceability system is in place. The more complex the operation becomes, the more prone the company is to experience safety issues. If there is a contamination incident, for example, you have a higher chance of containing the problem and resolving it as soon as possible when you have a food traceability system in place.

An essential benefit of traceability is preventing any problem, because it increases visibility. Moreover, when an issue cannot be avoided, a traceability system helps contain the issue and allows the company to recover and regain the confidence of consumers faster. To further define how food traceability helps the industry, here are the four stages:

  1. Preparedness. When putting an emergency plan in place, food traceability increases visibility and provides access to all data pertinent to preparation.
  2. Fast response. Increased response time as a result of accessibility and transparency of information.
  3. Recovery. During recovery, a traceability system is instrumental in helping the company rebuild or maintain confidence among industry regulators as well as consumers.
  4. Preventive approach. By being able to detect the root cause of the issue, the company can pinpoint what needs to be abandoned or modified within the supply chain.

Indeed, there is no doubt that food traceability is increasingly vital since the food industry is aiming at a more global reach. The only way you can prevent safety incidents and other issues affecting the supply chain is by ensuring that there is an adequate food traceability system in place.