Food Traceability in Food Production Businesses

Brahm Meka
August 28, 2022
5 Min
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Food traceability is one of the essential operations that a food manufacturer conducts. It holds a critical amount of significance regarding compliance, safety, reputation, and consumer confidence. 

In this guide, we’re going to cover the core tenets of food traceability, the benefits it has to offer, and the must-haves you should look for in a food traceability system. 

What is food traceability?

Food traceability is the process by which food is monitored during manufacturing. It’s an end-to-end system, so the food is monitored at the very beginning of the supply chain through until distribution. 

We really can’t overstate the importance of food traceability. It ensures that food is safe to eat, prevents food-borne illnesses, and provides a high level of visibility into your supply chain. 

These days, we trace food using software and digital services. Using digital tools can make your food traceability processes faster, more accurate, and more informative. 

What foods need to be traced?

Several foods need to be traced for various reasons, including ensuring freshness, preventing illness, and monitoring exposure to multiple elements and ingredients. 

The list of food that requires tracing include: 

  • Fruits & vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Cheese and dairy
  • Nut butter
  • And many more

While this is by no means comprehensive, it shows the immense breadth of foods that require food traceability. As such, it’s not uncommon to track nearly all foods that move through a manufacturing process. 

There are two aspects to food traceability

There are two main parts of food traceability: Tracking and tracing. Below is a breakdown of each of these aspects, giving insight into how to conduct the food traceability process.

1. Tracking

Tracking is the process of monitoring where a piece of food is at any given time. This begins at the start of the supply chain and ends when the product is with the consumer. 

Tracking is essential to understanding the lifecycle of food before delivery to consumers. It allows manufacturers to know where a food item is at any given time in its product lifecycle. This provides a high level of control over the manufacturing process. 

It also offers deep insights into the safety and quality of food, allowing manufacturers to produce a more consistent, high-quality product. 

2. Tracing

Tracing is the second component of food traceability. It has less to do with monitoring the physical location of a food item in a manufacturing cycle. Instead, it’s more concerned with the information attached to a food item. 

This information includes sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping. Using this data, manufacturers can ensure that products aren’t exposed to anything harmful, can accurately report where a specific food item was sourced, and nail down the source of foodborne illness or allergy outbreaks. 

The data gathered during food tracing is stored in “batch records,” which are electronic documents that record all of the information about batches of food items. 

The benefits of food traceability

There are several benefits of food traceability, most of which are not optional in the food manufacturing sector. By understanding these benefits, you can make better decisions when choosing food traceability systems and policies. 

Stay compliant with current regulations

The foremost benefit of food traceability is that it keeps you compliant with current regulations. The FDA is constantly updating and changing the way it monitors and ensures food quality. If you’re manufacturing food, these regulations are the backbone of your operations. 

Proper food traceability makes it much easier to stay compliant with these regulations. It gives you a consistent framework to follow, provides the data you need to check against the rules, and more. 

Spot foodborne illness with precision

One of the most distressing challenges for the food manufacturing sector is food-borne illness. Even if you follow the best protocols, food-borne illness can hit your business and customers without warning. 

The top priority is to contain the contaminated food as quickly as possible. However, knowing which food has been tainted can be impossible without food traceability. Food traceability gives you the insight you need to ensure that you can rapidly mitigate — or better yet, contain — the spread of the illness.

Track high-risk food production processes

Another benefit of food traceability is that it allows you to track high-risk food production processes more accurately. These are any processes where the chances for a food-borne illness, rot, or allergen exposure can occur. 

Food traceability can give you more insight into these pieces of the food manufacturing puzzle. This will not only help you handle issues as they arise but prevent them as well. It can also be a boon for your insurance costs and applications. 

Maintain supply chain visibility

An overall net benefit of food traceability is that it provides rich supply chain visibility at all times. Keeping your supply chain visible helps you reap all of the previously mentioned benefits of food traceability. 

It also makes efficiency, productivity, and operational streamlining far easier. With a high level of visibility, you’ll be able to spot areas of improvement, redundancy, and opportunity with ease. 

Promote a sustainable supply chain

Food traceability also allows you to develop a much more sustainable supply chain. Sustainability is growing in importance in all sectors, and food is no exception. 

You can use food traceability to source better ingredients and raw foods, work with more eco-friendly partners, and otherwise reduce your business’s footprint. 

4 must-haves for a food traceability system

Now that you know how a food traceability system works and the benefits it has to offer, you’re ready to start looking for the right food traceability system for your business. Here are some key factors to look for in a system when making this decision. 

1. Track everything

First, you want a food traceability system that can track everything. That means every ingredient, every batch of food, every food item, from farm to table. All of your suppliers, materials, producers, and operators are included in this list as well. 

This level of insight will maximize your ability to create a great, consistent, and safe product. It’ll instill confidence in your consumers and reduce liabilities for your business. 

2. The FDA will soon mandate end-to-end tracking

Currently, the FDA requires “one-up, one-back” food tracing. That means your food is only tracked based on where it is presently and where you are about to send it. 

One-up, one-back food tracing is a holdover from a time when manufacturers had access to much less data. Now, manufacturers can track the journey of food items much more comprehensively, and the FDA is aware of this. That’s why the FDA is working to modernize food traceability with more holistic systems. You should choose a food traceability system that can help you adapt to these upcoming mandates. 

3. Digital tracking can’t be ignored

Digital technology can be an excellent tool for tracking food items in real-time. It can provide instant insights into where a food item is located, what it has been exposed to, and where it is going, all in one place. 

Don’t opt for an older food traceability system and stick to options that provide newer, now essential digital tracking. 

4. Electronic batch records

Additionally, look for a food traceability system that offers electronic batch records. This will make your job much easier and faster. 

Keep your entire food production process organized from start to finish with Brahmin Solutions

Don’t wait on food traceability. Reach out to Brahmin solutions today and see how a food traceability system can revolutionize how you manufacture food items. 

Brahm Meka
Founder & CEO

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