Food traceability meaning and benefits

Food traceability is an integral system that supports food safety by making the production process transparent.

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Food traceability is an integral system that supports food safety by making the production process transparent.

Running a food business always comes with a risk, even with strict food safety efforts. Recalls are common occurrences in the food industry, and the best defense of a food business against the recall's effects is an effective food traceability system.

A traceability system allows every owner to clearly see how the food materials flow within the food processing industry. Having this wide range of information is vital in analyzing the efficiencies of a food production process and in removing unsafe food from the market. It is also important when addressing food safety incidents related to your products and preventing any food fraud.

Key points covered:

  1. Traceability is the system that allows business owners to track the flow of food ingredients and products in the entire supply chain.
  2. Establishing a traceability system is a regulatory requirement for countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
  3. The benefits of traceability may significantly reduce the effects of a food recall on your business.
  4. The availability of traceability information promotes complete visibility of production and consumer confidence in your production process.
  5. Traceability can either be upstream traceability, describing the movement of materials from the manufacturer to the supplier, or downstream traceability, describing the movements of products and steps from the manufacturer to the customer. 
  6. Traceability systems must have information about the product, such as supplier, manufacturer, product, preparation, and delivery information
  7. FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System features a two-in-one Traceability System. This smart feature can help food businesses log information about the product and manage production efficiently. 

In this article, we analyze traceability in food safety and how it can help businesses control product flow. In this article, we will also show you how our intelligent Food Safety Software can help you comply with traceability and international regulations.

What is traceability in food safety?

Food traceability means the capability of a food business to track the movement of food materials in the supply chain until it becomes a finished product. It is a supply chain management tool that involves all the processes related to producing a food item from your facility.

Internal traceability processes in the food industry require documenting all processes, including receiving raw materials, food preparation, packaging, and food distribution.

The main objective of traceability is to have a transparent overview of the product's state and safety throughout its production.

The concept of traceability in food systems can be divided into two categories:

  1. Upstream tracing. Tracking the movement of products from the customer to the supplier. Otherwise known as external tracking.
  2. Downstream tracing. Tracking the movement of products from the food manufacturer to the consumer. Otherwise known as internal tracking.

In case of problems such as a foodborne illness outbreak or contaminated products, traceability records are used to identify the source of the problems quickly. The records for foods are also used to determine the potential size of the problem and plan corrective actions accordingly. The traceability system acts as an integral part of a defense plan for food manufacturing companies and food service businesses.

Why is traceability important?

Food and beverage businesses can benefit from implementing a traceability system more than just in terms of inventory control and management.

Traceability is a vital part of a food business' preparedness plans against food safety events, such as complaints and foodborne diseases.

It covers several aspects of food safety and food production regulations.

smart agriculture to improve traceability of food businesses

Aside from convenience, the capabilities of production traceability ensure a company's compliance with regulations related to food safety.

In particular, the benefits of traceability include the following:
  • Food safety. One of the main benefits of a traceability system is helping food businesses manage food safety. In case of food safety issues, business owners can immediately access information about the product in question and identify which food safety hazard caused the issue. Such information can help food regulators promptly release guidelines on how to control the problem and protect public health.
  • Transparency. A traceability system allows a food business team to track the movement of ingredients and products through all stages of production, including where the ingredients are sourced. This benefit shows consumers how your food is produced and the origin of products for transparency. 
  • Regulatory compliance. Establishing a traceability system is required as a food safety standard in countries such as the UK, the US, and Australia. The system allows food businesses to document the necessary information in case of complaints and food recalls. Government agencies will request this information in case of an investigation or a food safety audit process for a root cause analysis.
  • Management support. An effective supply chain traceability system doubles as a food safety documentation record for inventory management and manufacturing history. As a food business tracks the flow of food products, the system can become a supporting record of where ingredients are used and how much was required to produce a particular batch of food items. Some systems act as real-time inventory and manufacturing management with integrations for resolving production issues.
  • Reduced cost. When an issue of contamination arises, the time and speed of your response can significantly affect the costs of the problem. Accessing the information right away can lead to the fast removal of the product or batches of food and reduce the effects of the problem and the potential costs to your food business during an actual recall.

Setting up food traceability solutions shows your approach and commitment to protecting public health and boosts business customer loyalty. It also shows your preparedness to address any potential issues that may happen. Establishing a relevant traceability platform must be one of the main food safety initiatives of a food business.

At FoodDocs, our solution combines the benefits of food traceability technology and food safety management systems. You can document all of the essential information using our two-in-one Traceability System and achieve all of the previously mentioned benefits. Remember to record important information about your high-quality products and materials using our smart software.

With our smart Food Safety Management System, you can get smart solutions to monitor your daily industrial operations while documenting the flow of your products. Our software has all the key features of a digital solution for tracking your product and ingredient flow. You can consistently maintain transparency and comprehensive traceability procedures with our enhanced traceability software and food safety system.

Track product shelf-life, production process, and food safety with minimum effort. Book a demo or explore the software yourself by using our free 14-day trial.

Food Traceability FoodDocs


Who is required to trace food? 

Generally, all food and beverage manufacturers and businesses will benefit from establishing a food traceability system for continuous improvement. Several countries have food regulations for establishing a traceability system to help reduce food safety risks. 

In the UK, Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 requires food and beverage industry businesses to establish a comprehensive traceability system to protect consumers from hazardous risks in the supply chain.

In the US, the FDA provides an additional requirement under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Food Traceability Final Rule. The rule requires any food manufacturing business or food producer that is handling, packing, holding, and distributing foods included in the Food Traceability List to establish traceability recordkeeping.

The Food Traceability List includes food ingredients that were assessed to cause significant impacts based on the risk-ranking model used under the FSMA.

The foods under the Food Traceability List were evaluated based on the following factors:

  • Frequency of associated outbreaks
  • Impact and severity of associated foodborne illness based on hazard analysis
  • Likelihood of contamination
  • The potential for pathogen growth during production and storage
  • The potential for process contamination
  • Consumption rate or the product's rate of movement in the market
  • Cost of illness

Businesses in food production and service equipped with the proper food traceability procedures are more likely to be prepared to address problems and provide higher customer satisfaction.

In a food recall, food companies with a comprehensive supply chain mapping can immediately remove affected products from the market. The enhanced traceability can protect more consumers from buying the product.

Read our food safety tips to prevent contamination of foods in your business that may lead to food recalls.

tracing products with digital tools


What is required for product traceability?

An effective product traceability system can significantly contribute to the success of a company's approach to food safety.

The system for tracing food must be able to capture the necessary information that will be vital in case of problems. The information will be used as standard reference data by food inspectors in a standardized approach.

Product traceability requires the following essential information and legal requirements:

  1. Supplier information. This includes your supply chain partners or the source of the raw materials used to produce your food products and any relevant documents that prove the safety and quality control of the raw materials. As part of supplier management, all history from procurement regarding product deliveries, such as supplier agreements and other information about inbound supplier ingredients, must be collected.
  2. Manufacturer information. This information is about your business. It includes the name, address, and contact details of the food processor that must be accessible to requesting customers and food safety agencies. 
  3. Product information. The food tracing system must be able to document information such as the recipe of an individual item, the production batch, the quantity of the produced batch, the date of production, traceability lot codes, product identification codes, conditions during production, and the shelf-life of the products. Use our free spec sheet template to list all the necessary information about your products.
  4. Operations involved. In addition to material traceability, information includes in-process records involving the entire production and assembly line used to create the product, the machines involved, the preparation performed, food storage procedures, and any manual processes of calculations performed during the process. 
  5. Employees in charge. A piece of vital information businesses will need when investigating a contamination event report is the name of the employee in charge during the production. The employee can tell you any deviation that may have occurred and led to the problem.
  6. Corrective actions. When a complaint is filed, the food safety team must record the action taken to address the issue. This information will help the team address any similar concerns in the future.
  7. Delivery or disposal record. Finished products may either be dispatched to intended customers if produced properly or disposed of or reworked if identified as defective products. Separate records of the food shipment must be kept to determine where the materials and final product went.

These parts are just some of the common features of a traceability system. The collected detailed requirements must be clear to understand the root cause of the problem.  The product information will be used to analyze the situation to resolve recall issues or for food safety incident management.


Food traceability template

Free Food Traceability Template


In addition to a free food traceability template, check out other free templates from our list to help you comply with food production regulations.

The quality and comprehensiveness of your traceability requirement records can determine the efficiency of any traceability activity and help in making informed decisions. All records must be maintained until the product is out of circulation in the market. Records on product requirements and the entire production flow must be consistently organized for easier access and faster action in case of problems and legal requirements.

Most recent product development cycles promote the use of digital solutions and relevant traceability tools that can compile all the necessary traceability information in one application. 

Use smart solutions such as FoodDocs' intuitive Food Safety Management Software. Log information about your products, operations, suppliers, and end-users using our two-in-one Traceability system. FoodDocs system also helps your team by automatically computing expiration dates based on the shelf-life information of each product you log in your recipe book.

Plus, our system features smart solutions such as a notification system that alerts employees of a product's shelf-life status and expiry dates.

You can also perform efficient batch tracking and shelf-life monitoring using our smart Food Safety System with traceability features.

product traceability system

Learn more about the benefits of our dedicated traceability tools below. 



What is traceability in the food supply chain?

Especially now that the demand for transparency has significantly increased as part of food safety trends, traceability has become more important. Effective food safety practices and complete records of the movement of ingredients and products offer valuable information for business owners, food safety agencies, and consumer protection. 

A traceability system in the food chain can help food businesses comply with their commitment to protecting consumers and show that food safety is important. In addition, an accurate traceability program can help businesses protect their assets by ensuring that no food goes to waste as they track every product's shelf-life.

The level of complexity of supply chain transparency can determine the usefulness of a food traceability program. Investment in technology and smart software programs is the trend and more efficient solution in the current food industry.

Learn more about ensuring food safety for customers from our detailed article on food safety guidelines.

What is the Food Safety Modernization Act traceability system rule?

In the U.S. food industry, at least 492 food recalls were issued from 2021 to 2022. In such cases, traceability systems significantly contributed to identifying affected products and rapidly removing them from the market.

In one of the most comprehensive updates of the U.S. food safety laws, a rule that strengthens the traceability system of the U.S. food supply chain was enforced. 

In the U.S. FDA's pursuit of faster and more effective tracking of the food movement, the FSMA Food Traceability Final Rule was established in November 2022. The FDA traceability rule emphasizes the technical level of standards for food traceability record requirements and strict guidance on traceability for food businesses handling foods that are listed in the Food Traceability List.

The rule also requires producers to maintain a traceability plan detailing the procedures performed by the business to collect the necessary product information. According to the rule, food businesses must maintain paper-based or electronic records of the information and be readily available upon request by the food safety agency.

Comply with this final rule's basic requirement using the modern Traceability Solution in our AI-powered Food Safety System. Collect all the necessary information for compliance standards and keep track of your product's current status daily with the help of our smart and flexible solution.

Our system can also alert you if a batch of products is about to expire and help you maximize your resources with smart notifications. 

Learn more about what is food safety system from our detailed article.

How is food traceability in manufacturing used?

The food traceability process in food manufacturing is used to monitor and manage the movement of food products and their ingredients at various stages of the production and distribution process. It helps ensure consumer safety and product quality standards while providing transparency to them.

Food traceability in manufacturing industries or production businesses is a critical component as they produce foods in large batches. Addressing recalls or customer complaints can take a while and cost more without a properly working traceability system. 

Complete traceability in manufacturing typically captures information about the ingredient source, production information, inventory, and regulatory compliance. Additional recordkeeping requirements may vary from one food process manufacturer to another. 

The recorded information provides several benefits for manufacturers, specifically in improving operational efficiency. 

Such systems can streamline operations by automating data collection and sharing, reducing manual record-keeping, and improving production efficiency.

What are food traceability examples?

To help you understand the importance of a food traceability system, we listed examples of traceability contributions in cases of outbreak cases.

Food traceability systems are extensively used by health and safety agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One of this agency's main tasks is to investigate cases of outbreaks and assist in analyzing the events that violate government regulations.

In 2020, a multistate outbreak of Salmonella linked to onions occurred, which affected at least 1,127 people across 48 states. In this case, inspectors were able to trace the cause of the outbreak to be linked to the supplier of the raw materials. The company was able to recall the affected products one week after the outbreak was detected.

A similar multistate outbreak involving raw tuna also occurred in previous years. The outbreak affected 25 states and sent approximately 425 customers to the hospital. Using records, the CDC and FDA were able to identify that the source of the outbreak was tuna, which was a common ingredient in all of the implicated restaurants. 

Upon detection and conclusion of the source, the agencies established a strict screening process for all imports of similar raw materials from foreign suppliers.

With the help of food traceability, food agencies can immediately address concerns and minimize the potential damages of an outbreak. The availability of records also allows businesses to issue an immediate recall to protect consumers from further problems.

How to track your products and maintain food safety using FoodDocs?

As mentioned, traceability is a vital part of a food safety system. An effective traceability system prepares a business team for safety or quality issues or any food processing supply chain events.

Setting up an internal traceability system is a continuous task and requires serious commitment from your food safety team.

Using FoodDocs' smart Food Safety Management System equipped with a two-in-one Traceability System fulfills all traceability and production needs.

In addition to the most critical and primary features of a food safety management platform, our smart software features a Traceability System with the following benefits:

  1. Traceability System for accurate tracking of ingredient and product movement
  2. Production management for automatic recipe calculations
  3. Digital recipe book for organizing all recipes and instructions
  4. Shelf-life tracker for managing products accurately

Traceability System for accurate tracking of ingredient and product movement

With our Traceability System, you can create traceability logs with just three clicks. Enter all product information, including:

  1. Product name
  2. Ingredients
  3. Batch Number/ Production Dates
  4. Target amount
  5. Expiry date

All essential information needed to track the movement of your ingredients and products and for recalls is conveniently presented in one custom food traceability software. 

Managers can also attach monitoring tasks to each traceability information, such as receiving temperature tasks, to further support product information. 

Our system was made with easy-to-follow instructions and key information. Find traceability logs and perform history management in seconds using advanced search. With this feature, you can instantly access information based on entry date, expiry date, product batch, and ingredient batch data. Use this feature to analyze a certain batch of information and download the data for your convenience and detailed tracking. 

In addition, food handlers can log traceability information through our Food Safety App, which is accessible through any mobile device. 


Traceability System from FoodDocs software

Production management for automatic recipe calculations

A significant part of our Traceability System is the Production Management System. This feature allows food business teams to perform efficient production planning, from recalculating recipes to tracking the shelf-life of your products.

With the help of our production management feature, teams can save time on calculating production batches. Based on the recipes you uploaded or logged into our system, you can easily insert the total expected yield for production, and our system will recalculate the recipes for you. 

Using this automatic feature, you can reduce human errors in calculating recipes and promote the improvement of production steps.

In addition, our system can also help you keep track of your ingredient and product shelf-life. Based on the shelf-life information you provide in each recipe, our system automatically computes an ingredient or product's expiry date. From this information, our smart software can send intuitive alerts to assigned food handlers whenever an ingredient or product is nearing its expiry.

Digital recipe book for organizing all recipes and instructions

Ensure that all of your recipes are organized in one cloud storage with the help of our Digital Recipe Book. With this feature, you can log all recipe information, including the following, to our system:

  1. Recipe name
  2. Ingredient proportions
  3. Preparation steps
  4. Allergen and shelf-life information 
  5. Image of the final product

The information logged into our Digital Recipe Book is also used to calculate batch production and expiration dates of products automatically.

Use this smart solution to ensure food handlers have access to proper food preparation and reference for the correct business processes.

Shelf-life tracker for managing products accurately

Once you log individual product or ingredient shelf-life information in our Digital Recipe Book, you can receive intuitive alerts about shelf-life reminders

Based on the date and production time stamps you enter or what our system computes automatically, food handlers will receive smart notifications when a product is nearing its expiry date.

With this feature, you can access accurate data for labels and ensure that all food ingredients and products are optimized before spoilage and reduce food waste. Never let any food go to waste with our Shelf-Life Tracker.

Shelf-life tracker txt

Smart Shelf-Life Tracker from FoodDocs software

With the help of our comprehensive food traceability software system, you can ensure that all ingredient and product information is well-organized and can be accessed easily in case of future recall events or inspections. Use our software for food manufacturing, service, or retail to achieve food safety compliance with food industry standards.

You can either show the system information or print the data in an organized sheet for easier analysis. At FoodDocs, we aim to make food safety more accessible and easier to understand with AI-powered solutions. Show your commitment to food safety by using our smart software.

The automated setup of your smart Food Safety Management System takes only an average of 15 minutes. Our system can generate the necessary digital documents based on your business operations using artificial intelligence and a machine-learning program. 

Start using our smart solutions to keep track of your products and food safety. Book a demo to get a quick overview of how you can trace and manage your production with ease.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you need more information about the definition of traceability? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the topic.

What is the food traceability meaning?

Food traceability refers to the ability to track the movement of food products and their ingredients throughout the entire supply chain, from production or cultivation to consumption. It involves documenting and recording information about a food product's journey at each stage of production, processing, distribution, and sale.

What is production traceability?

The production traceability definition refers to the ability of a food business to track the flow of its materials and products along the manufacturing process and production chain.

What is the food traceability FDA rule?

The Food Traceability Rule is one of the major provisions of the FSMA. It requires business owners who receive, handle, manufacture, store, pack, and deliver food items listed in the Food Traceability List to maintain traceability information. The information will be used in case of a critical tracking event in the supply chain.

What is the difference between traceability and recall?

Traceability is a system that allows food businesses to monitor the movement of products in the supply chain and secure safety. On the other hand, recall or product recall is an activity wherein a food business voluntarily or forcibly removes food products at any point of the supply chain to control a food safety issue.

What is the meaning of traceability in one word?


In one sentence, it would mean the ability to follow a product through the supply chain.




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