food safety management system

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.

  • Traceability is the system that allows business owners to track the flow of food ingredients and products in the entire supply chain.
  • Establishing a traceability system is a regulatory requirement for countries such as the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
  • An effective traceability system can significantly reduce the effects of a food recall on your business.

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. 

Establishing a traceability system in a food business allows every owner to clearly see how the food materials flow within the food processing supply chain. Having this wide range of information is vital in analyzing the efficiencies of a food production process. It is also important when addressing issues related to your products and preventing any food fraud. 

We go deeper into what is traceability in food safety and how it can help businesses control product flow. In this article, we will also show you how our digital Food Safety Software can help you comply with traceability and food regulations.

Here is a list of the topics discussed in this blog post:



How do you define traceability?

Food traceability meaning refers to 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.

Traceability in the food industry requires 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. It can be used for product quality control and continuous improvement for food processors.


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, traceability records are used to identify the source of the problems quickly. The records 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, food traceability ensures a company's compliance with essential food safety regulations. 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 what caused the problem. Such information can help authorities promptly release guidelines on how to control the problem and protect public health.2

In addition, the information from the food traceability system can determine which areas of the food sector are affected. The information contributes to an efficient response from regulatory agencies addressing the issue.

  • Transparency. A traceability system allows a food business team to track the movement of ingredients and products through the supply chain. This benefit gives the business owner the necessary information to show consumers how your products are produced. 
  • 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. This information will be requested by government agencies 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 documentation record for inventory management. 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.
  • Reduced cost. In addressing food safety issues, the time and speed of your response can significantly affect the costs of the problem.  Being able to access the information right away can lead to the rapid removal of the product and reduce the effects of the problem and the potential costs to your food business.

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

A traceability food system is undeniably an integral part of a food safety system. 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 traceability system and achieve all of the previously mentioned benefits. Never forget to record important information about your products and materials using our smart software.

With our digital 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 tracking with our traceability software and food safety system.


FSMS FoodDocs


Track product shelf-life, production process, and food safety with minimum effort. You can start and explore the possibilities by using our free 14-day trial.


Who is required to trace food? 

Generally, all food & beverage manufacturers and businesses will benefit from establishing a food traceability system for continuous improvement.

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 enumerated 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 case of a food recall, food companies with a comprehensive supply chain mapping can immediately remove affected products from the market. The system 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.


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 of the raw materials. As part of supplier management, all information regarding product deliveries, such as supplier agreements, must be collected.
  2. Manufacturer information. This information is about your business. It includes the name, address, and contact information of the food processor that must be accessible to requesting customers and food safety agencies. 
  3. Product information. The traceability 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, 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. This information includes in-process records involving the entire production and assembly line used to create the product, the machines involved, the preparation performed, and any manual processes of calculations performed during the process. 
  5. Employees in charge. A piece of vital information that businesses will need when investigating a contamination event report is the name of the employee in charge during the production. The employee will be able to tell you any deviation that may have occurred and led to the problem at hand.
  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 shipment of food must be kept to determine where the materials and final product went to.

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.


Food traceability template

Free Food Traceability Template


In addition to a free food traceability template, check out other free templates to use 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 must be consistently organized for easier access and faster action in case of problems and legal requirements.

Most recent developments 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' digital Food Safety Management Software. Log information related to your products, operations, suppliers, and end-users using our traceability features. FoodDocs system also helps your team by automatically computing expiration dates based on the shelf-life information of each product you log.

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 digital Food Safety System with traceability features.


product traceability system


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


Traceability in food supply chain

Especially now that consumers want transparency as part of food safety trends, a traceability system's benefits could not be more emphasized than ever. Effective 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.

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


Food Safety Modernization Act traceability system

In the U.S., 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 final rule emphasizes technical standards on additional 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 must be readily available upon request by the food safety agency.

Comply with this final rule's basic requirement by using the traceability feature in our digital Food Safety System.Collect all the necessary information for reference standards and keep track of your product's current status on a daily basis.

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


FSMS FoodDocs


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


Food traceability example

To help you understand the importance of a food traceability system, we listed examples of outbreak cases that were resolved with the help of a traceability system.

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.

In a comprehensive report by the FDA and CDC, they presented several case studies of outbreaks where the traceability system proved to be most useful.

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.


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 food-related 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.

While there are choices for a digital solution in the market, using FoodDocs' digital Food Safety Management Systemequipped with a traceability system fulfills two tasks with one software. It is a complete solution for food safety and traceability efforts that can significantly help you in your compliance efforts.

In addition to the most critical and primary features of a food safety system, our smart software features a traceability system with the following benefits:

  • Track shelf-life dates. Our system automatically computes the expiration dates of your products once you set up your digital recipe book. The computation is based on the provided shelf-life information of your products. Use this feature to ensure that all your products stay fresh and safe.



Food Traceability Log from FoodDocs


  • Smart notifications for product expiration. Using our mobile system, employees will get notifications regarding products that are near their expiration date. Optimize your resources and make sure that no batch of products goes to waste.
  • Fast traceability log. Quickly log product and batch information as our system is equipped with a built-in scanner that accommodates EAN/QR codes for logging individual identification. Our program will automatically register the time, date, and person in charge upon entry of information.

You can also upload other supporting documents that are essential for traceability. Some documents that may be useful include preparation instructions in video or image formats, allergen information, consumption guide, and storage instructions.



Production Traceability from FoodDocs


  • Track task completion. Manage and track how your product moves along the stages of production using our traceability system. Verify the information, such as the time of packing and the employee in charge. You can also insert remarks or comments in case of reported deviations in operation.
  • Organized traceability entries. Access all traceability logs in case of an investigation from a central database. All of your traceability records are secured in the cloud storage dedicated to your business. Pull up any product information in seconds using our cloud-based technology.

You can get all of these features and access any traceability data using any mobile device or from your desktop. Our software solution makes food safety compliance and traceability more accessible for all food businesses. 

In addition to traceability logs, our system can automatically generate the essential monitoring logs and checklists for your food business. Use these logs to support tracking information in case of complaints or a recall.



Product Recall Log from FoodDocs


The automated setup of your digital 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 with our free 14-day trial.




Frequently Asked Question

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


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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