Food Traceability Standards and Regulations to Deliver Safe Products

Bar code and RFID track and trace technology can improve visibility and efficiency within the food industry. Food Traceability refers to the ability to locate goods either upstream or downstream in the supply chain. Effective food traceability systems will improve Food Tracking. A primary goal for the food industry is preventing contamination and delivering safe quality products to consumers. To meet this goal, regulations and standards have been implemented in the food industry. Some of the major organizations and practices impacting how U.S. companies develop procedures for food traceability are listed below.

HACCP compliance (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Currently in the U.S. today, food safety and regulation is shared by the FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Both the FDA and FSIS regulations call for one step forward/one step back traceability. Neither agency, however, calls for full traceability as in some of the other global regulations.

Food Recalls

In the rare and costly instances where prevention fails, recalls become necessary to ensure that consumers are receiving safe and quality products. Manual food tracking systems have proven to be somewhat ineffective in minimizing the extent of a recall. Food recalls can be a frightening event. In some cases recalls are issued to prevent death.

To stay informed about food recalls in the United States you can view the live feed on the right of this page or visit the sites listed below.

FDA’s Recently Posted Recalls
FSIS’s Current Recalls and Alerts

Also see our blogs under the Food Traceability category for additional information.

Automated Food Traceability Systems (i.e. a RFID track and trace solution) will greatly reduce the extent of a recall by improving product visibility, and increasing accurate identification of unsafe products. The major benefits of food tracking is to increase operational efficiencies, provide immediate response to a recall, improve consumer confidence, improve accuracy of data, and greatly reduce operating cost.

Leading Towards Standardization

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is an initiative by the produce industry to move to more specific food tracking methods. It requires a standard barcode to be used on all cases containing produce in warehouses today. The standard barcode is called a GS1 – 128 barcode and encodes both the GTIN and Lot/Batch numbers. This bar code is one of the elements of the PTI that is helping implement standards for food traceability systems. The PTI vision clearly represents a push for improved food tracking – “Supply chain-wide adoption of electronic traceability for every case of produce by the year 2012.”

GS1 is a not-for-profit organization -with over 100 country-specific entities globally – dedicated to the adoption and implementation of standards-based, global supply chain solutions. GS1 has worked closely with PTI and has a vision of “a world where things and related information move efficiently and securely for the benefit of businesses and improvement of people’s lives, every day, everywhere.”

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in January of 2011 and authorizes the FDA and HHS to increase inspections of food facilities, enhance detection of foodborne illness outbreaks, and order recalls. The new law also requires food companies to implement new safety protocols to reduce hazards and is the most significant update to US Food Safety Laws since 1938.

These laws, groups, and initiatives are causing many food companies to find ways to improve food tracking and implement food traceability systems. There are already many companies in the United States taking steps to implement Food Traceability Systems, whether it is with bar code or RFID track and trace technology.

Benefits of Food Tracking Systems

Improve Food Traceability – Provide real-time visibility and information on product life cycle, from manufacturing to temperature-sensitive transportation, storage, and sale to end-consumer. Increase inventory accuracy to 99.99% and enhance expiration date control (FIFO).

Improve Food Quality – Reduce and track instances of spoilage, contamination, and food-borne illnesses. Keep food safe throughout the supply chain with improved food tracking systems.

Improve Recalls – Reduce overall costs associated with recalls by providing narrower and more successful recalls from on-tag souring identification and improved food traceability.

Increase Productivity – Remove all manually “paper-based” processes used for food tracking. Improve labor control (reported customer savings of 25% from implementing automated bar code and RFID track and trace solutions)

Increase Supply Chain Efficiency – Reduce shrinkage, by improving the efficiency of moving products through the supply chain with bar code and RFID track and trace technology.

Improve Consumer Confidence – Organic food is a rising trend but yet some consumers of this variety still have doubts as to the validity of the claims. In the near future with standards for food traceability systems and RFID track and trace solutions, consumers will have much more confidence in the claims made by food companies.

Return on Investment (ROI) – Provide cost-effective regulatory compliance with automated bar code or RFID track and trace-based Food Tracking Systems and receive a quality ROI by greatly reducing recalls, increasing efficiency, and improving product quality and consumer confidence and satisfaction.

Bar Code Integrators Inc. has strategic partners and dedicated staff to design and implement bar code and RFID Track and Trace Solutions. Food Traceability Systems will allow companies to maintain regulatory compliance, develop a competitive advantage, and maximize the speed, efficiency, and visibility of goods as they move from the fields to the consumer.

View the video and documentation below for more information.

Food Traceability Video Provided by Zebra Technologies

Zebra Technologies: Benefits of Food Traceability