The importance of food traceability cannot be overstated. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 420,000 people die annually from food contamination, which affects one in 10 people worldwide. If the worse happens and a food product results in consumer illness, your ability to implement a fast recall is crucial. The FDA assigns special importance to food traceability and even provides a list of foods that require strict recordkeeping.
On November 15, 2022, the FDA updated their Food Traceability List (FTL). The FTL includes fresh cut fruits and vegetables, shell eggs, and nut butters, as well as certain fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, ready-to-eat deli salads, cheeses, and seafood products. Covered firms and farms, retail food establishments and restaurants will be required to provide information to the FDA within 24 hours, or some reasonable time to which the FDA agrees.
What is the difference between food traceability and recall? According to the FAO, “traceability” is applied as a tool to control food hazards and to provide reliable product information and guarantee product authenticity. “Product Recall” is defined as the action to remove food from the market at any stage of the food chain, including that possessed by consumers.
Simply put, if a product or ingredient marketed by your organization is suspected of causing consumer illnesses, you must be able to initiate an immediate and thorough recall. The FDA’s stance is that time is of the essence in this case. Even if your product is not on a FDA list, the prospect of consumer legal action by the hordes of attorneys who view food safety as a growth industry should be enough motivation to implement and maintain a thoroughly tested recall system.
Thorough Record-Keeping is Necessary
Inbound Logistics outlines fives steps to improving food traceability:
- Collaborate with suppliers. …
- Implement tracking systems and software. …
- Integrate traceability with existing technology. …
- Create an alerts system. …
- Communicate with your customers.
The Emergence of Block-Chain Technology for Food Traceability
Blockchain food traceability is a digital record maintained by a distributed network of multiple computers. This technology is a good fit for decentralized food supply systems. Think of blockchain as a distributed ledger that contains data on all food supply chain transactions and events in chronological order.
Walmart, for example, has implemented blockchain technology throughout its supply system for agricultural products. In doing so, they were able to reduce tracking time from several days to just mere seconds. The ability to instantaneously trace the entire lifecycle of food products from origin through every point of contact on its journey to the consumer bolsters credibility, efficiency and safety.
Blockchain enhances the ability to quickly pinpoint potential sources of contamination to efficiently prevent, contain or rectify outbreaks. Transparency in terms of blockchain food traceability can validate and authenticate food origin and improve brand credibility. Openlink.com
Today, blockchain technology is being implemented in several enterprise-level food safety software packages. It is estimated that more than twenty percent of the top global companies will use blockchain by the year 2025.
Current Food Traceability/Recall Software Solutions
Setting up a system to trace food ingredients to facilitate a fast recall can be done manually. But this can be burdensome to operations. Fortunately, numerous software solutions for companies of all sizes are available. Many corporations employ comprehensive software solutions like that offered by TraceGains. However, there are also a plethora of packages available to assist companies of all sizes in all markets. To find a food traceability software solution that fits your needs, we suggest reviewing these articles:
- Best Food Traceability Software
- Food Traceability Software
- Review – 20 Best Food Traceability Software Packages
- Blockchain in the Food Supply Chain
Food Traceability is a Requirement for Both Large and Small Organizations
Whether you keep manual records or employ any of the software solutions now available, being able to trace the history of food products and their ingredients from “farm to fork” is more critical than ever. The FDA is continually adding to their food traceability list for organizations that manufacture, process, pack, or hold foods. Moreover, food traceability is required or implied to achieve a GFSI food safety certification, such as SQF or PrimusGFS. What’s more, it is smart business. If the worse should happen and your company must perform a product or ingredient recall, the potential damage and legal ramifications will be minimized if advance preparations are in place for such an eventuality.