The 5-step approach to Food Traceability

The ability to follow the movement of food products and their ingredients throughout the supply chain both upward and downward is known as traceability. The need for Food traceability arises from two different ends of the spectrum, the producer and the consumer. Let us understand the 5-step approach to food traceability
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“The ability to follow the movement of food products and their ingredients throughout the supply chain both upward and downward is known as traceability”. It is a system that links the production, processing, and distribution and makes it possible to locate a product at any given stage in the supply chain. 

Today both the consumer and the producer want their product to be of the highest quality.

A consumer has every right to know about the origin of the product, common allergens used in the process, and the organic raw materials sourced.

Meanwhile, the producers want to build trust among the customers by providing quality and valid data certificates about the product. 

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year. In the Global market, food safety and management issues have to align with the food safety systems, internal and external to the supply chain. 

The proper sourcing of raw materials along with strict processing norms and proper documentation will adhere to safety concerns. To achieve such safety, systematic management, track, and trace solutions are vital. Food traceability helps in product recalls and timely withdrawals of products in the food chain. 

What is food Contamination and how do we avoid them? 

Contamination in the food supply chain happens in two ways, one being due to external factors like change in weather, temperature, seasonal products, transportation, and mismanagement, and the other one due to internal factors like counterfeiting and misrepresentation, substitution, dilution, adulteration, etc.  

1Between January and March 2020, FDA issued 141 food recalls affecting 8.8 million units of food. During the second quarter, there were 79 recalls, affecting more than 7.8 million product units.  

The use of Blockchain technology helps in tracing, tracking, and recall of such products and counter contamination. 

Check how blockchain helps product recalls

  • Data inputs at every collection point in the supply chain will ensure systematic flow and recording of the process. 
  • Immutable data entry through decentralized data management will ensure that none of the participants can edit data  
  • Shipment tracking and regular data inputs cater to the need for real-time data of the product while in transport. 
  • Digitalized tracking and tracing of products ensures that if any contamination occurs at any stage of the supply chain, then the product can be targeted for a recall.  

With the help of Food traceability, both external and internal factors of contamination can be mitigated to a certain extent. With proper tracking of information throughout the supply chain, tracing products has become much easier.

Check out the 6 best practices in Food Traceability   

Tracking and Tracing in Food Traceability 

The need for Food traceability arises from two different ends of the spectrum, the producer and the consumer. Accumulation of data throughout the supply chain of products and their components for various needs. Irrespective of the industry, traceability systems help in identifying and tracking products along a continuous process. 

Traceability solutions differ among each other based on the amount of data collected (Breadth), how deep can the product get traced backward or upward of the supply chain (Depth), and the amount of accuracy of information which can ensure the source or origin of data collected (Precision)

Technology is making our food safe with Track and Trace solutions. The digital traceability process starts at the source and provides visibility at each step in the product’s supply chain. It is easier to identify problems quickly and provide targeted recalls. 

Track and Trace benefits 

  • Product recalls can be managed easily assuring food safety. 
  • Tracking data at all stages and sharing the information builds trust in the ecosystem 
  • In an event of food contamination, timely alerts can be raised and action taken. 
  • Tracing the product to its origin validates sustainability claims. 
  • Tracking of products helps to manage inventory better and hence reduce wastage of food. 
  • Authentic data captured at each stage satisfies Regulatory compliance 

5 step approach towards Food Traceability

1. Types of Traceability

Only a combined effort of players in the supply chain can achieve food traceability. The recording of data, continuously at each process of the supply chain as and when the product moves upward with complete transparency supports traceability.  

Internal Traceability: The process of tracing products within the organization is known as internal traceability. Here, raw material input is linked with the processed outcome of the product. The purpose is to trace the original raw materials after the product had been through stages of processing with the enterprise. This can be done through maintaining continuous tracing of a lot/batch data and redirecting to its source of raw material thought out the journey of the product. 

External traceability: Refers to tracing of products between players in the supply chain. With the help of identification numbers, lot/batch numbers, and trade documents, products can be traced both from the suppliers and the client’s end. 

2. Effectiveness of food traceability system

To trace and trace or recall a product in cases of safety issues, the effectiveness of traceability becomes important. Not only is the collection of data at every process is important, but it is also important that the relevance or accuracy of such data is measured.

The other factors that affect traceability are: 

  • Not all establishments in the supply chain can opt for internal or external traceability as the size of business, nature of business, financial needs matter. 
  • Not all raw materials can be scoured for their origin and there are time constraints in achieving it. 
  • The degree of collaboration between parties in the supply chain. 
  • Legal compliance regarding traceability 

With Food traceability, all the players in the supply chain can access, if required to, the data at any stage of the supply chain acting as proof to the consumer. 

3. Traceability requirement and implementation

Food traceability can be achieved through different methods and is dependent on the organization and its requirements. There isn’t any fixed formula to follow products through their journey. A quality system should be in place to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the product cycle. Entry of data at the initial stage should be done whether at the lot or individual level. Later the process of where, when, and how the raw materials go through should be associated with the initial raw material data. 

  • Assess traceability requirements: The depth, breadth, and precision of data required should be in consideration while creating a system for food traceability. 
  • Link external and internal traceability: The goal of internal traceability should be in tandem with the requirements of external traceability and also upward and downward processes of the supply chain. 
  • Act and review: A complete action plan should be put in place with systems to review every batch/lot size. This should be improved as and when the goals of traceability change. 

Data is generated at all processes in the supply chain and it has the 5 dimensions of Who, What, Where, When, and Why. 

Who- Who are the parties involved? 

What- What is the primary object being traced? 

Where- Where did these events take place? 

When- When did the event take place? 

Why- Why was the object at that location? 

To achieve end-to-end traceability, it is necessary to access and combine data from all players.

4. Drivers of traceability

The implementation of Food traceability has to do with three major players in the Food industry. 

Producers: With the global market in place, the need of the hour is quality, time, and cost. Manufacturers are adopting internal traceability software to ensure food safety and traceability to achieve consumer trust. The quality management of ISO 22000 requires traceability. 

  • Consumers:  In the modern era, the consumer is cautious about the products that they consume. They have every right to know about the origin of their product, raw materials used, allergic information, processing information, all of which can be achieved through food traceability software. 
  • Legal requirements: The government has made its mandate to implicate food traceability in all businesses of the food industry. Compliance with varying and evolving regulations is a new dimension to traceability. Supply chain traceability involves compliance with multiple jurisdictions for each country and area in the supply chain. 

5. Private standards for traceability.   

Even though the need to use privately standardized products is not a mandate, the retails, wholesalers and consumers are preferring to deal with products that are certified concerning safety, environmental issues, and health. Some of the standards are, 

  • Safe Quality Food (SQF): A division of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) providing independent certification regarding safety and quality management systems compiled with global and domestic food safety regulations. 
  • Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI): A GFSI guidelines document concerning minimum food safety requirements globally for agriculture production has been set out and can be certified through an external audit. To ensure a level of interoperability, systems have to be built on a common set of standards. 

These five steps aren’t an exclusive list of things to achieve effective food traceability. It mainly depends on the organization and their consumer requirements, changes and adaptation are always the need of the hour when it comes to food traceability. 

Agriculture Traceability – Inching closer to a Safer food supply chain 

Farm Management software will be a key to food traceability. A SaaS platform that provides complete traceability solutions right from farm management practices like agronomy practices, crop and harvest management, and data management helps to build a robust food supply chain. Data-driven solutions make the agriculture supply chain more sustainable and efficient and easily traceable. Blockchain traceability with tagged QR codes recreates the product story and assures the consumer of a transparent journey of the product.  

TraceX’s blockchain-powered SaaS platform brings the required transformation in food supply chains to ensure trust and transparency in the food ecosystem. 

Check out how Farm Management Solutions from TraceX helps to build end to end traceability in agriculture supply chains

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