Food traceability systems
are record keeping procedures, or tracing systems, that record the
path of a food product or an ingredient in a food product from its
initial supplier through all processing stages until it reaches the
A traceability system allows
the food industry to:
Basic characteristics of a traceability system include:
Traceability systems can be manual or computer based. Small companies manufacturing limited numbers of products with simple formulas, short shelf-lives and fewer customers may find paper-based, manual systems adequate. Large companies may find computerized systems more reliable and efficient. Computerized systems can help:
Several steps can be followed to establish a tracing system:
Buying food products means placing trust in the
producers and processors. One way producers earn that trust is by
being able to trace every ingredient they use. Traceability systems
rely on recording information accurately. Employees play a major
role in ensuring food is traceable and those who do not follow
established food traceability policies place the integrity of all
food processors at risk. Training employees is essential to increase
awareness, understanding and competence in food preparation and
A proper traceability system allows recalled products to be removed from the marketplace quickly.
The Canadian Food Inspection
Agency (CFIA) requires food operators to document the names and
addresses of their suppliers and customers, as well as the nature of
the product and date of delivery. Operators are also encouraged to
keep information on the volume or quantity of a product, the batch
number and more detailed descriptions of the product, such as
whether it is raw or processed. In the event of a recall, producers
must be able to provide this information to the CFIA. Their
office of food safety and recall
can be contacted in Manitoba at 204-229-9896.
It is a good idea to verify that a traceability system works well before it is needed. Being able to identify recalled products quickly helps control the scope of the recall and helps with removing the products from distribution quickly and accurately. To do this, you must be able to trace your raw ingredients, packaging materials and finished products.
If you cannot identify a specific ingredient, you may have to recall more product than is necessary. Incorrect identification of a product during a first recall is likely to lead to subsequent recalls.
Traceability systems need to be checked to determine if they meet the following objectives:
CFIA has developed a guide to help in the event of a food recall. It
is available on the Internet at
You can use the guide to help perform a mock recall to identify and
correct problems with your recall plans.
A heightened modern day threat of international terrorism includes the real possibility of intentional food supply contamination. Governments and the food processing industry need to be on guard. Observing voluntary and mandatory practices in food safety and traceability will help prevent incidents. Good organization and reliable documentation will also help identify and contain contamination rapidly, should an incident take place.
Importers to the US are required to maintain records that identify the immediate sources of their foods. Processors are required to create these records at the time of processing. They must maintain these records for at least two years and make them available to the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) within four hours, if requested. The Bioterrorism Act of 2002 requires domestic and foreign facilities that manufacture, process, pack or import food for human consumption in the United States to register with the USFDA. For more information visit: www.fda.gov/oc/bioterrorism/bioact.html
Can-Trace is a voluntary, industry-led, collaborative and open initiative committed to developing traceability standards for all food products sold in Canada. It seeks to define and develop minimum requirements for national whole-chain tracking and tracing standards. More information about Can-Trace is available on the Internet at can-trace.org
Other regulations or standards that include traceability requirements when importing food products include: