• Compliance
  • Traceability
  • Food & Beverage

What Is Food Traceability and How Does It Support Food Safety Compliance?

Written by Robert Brice
April 25, 2019
smart manufacturing

With the rise of increasingly strict and complex regulations surrounding food safety, adopting technologies to help protect supply chain companies from unnecessary risks associated with contaminated or recalled food ingredients and finished products is becoming more critical than ever.

This article will cover how and where traceability fits into technology’s role in supporting food safety compliance.

What is Food Traceability?

Food traceability technology is critical to the safety of your customers and the future viability of your business.

Food traceability technology is critical to the safety of your customers and the future viability of your business.

Food traceability is how food products are tracked as they pass through the supply chain, from harvesting, production, processing and distribution to consumers. Traceability documents movements of food materials as they pass through each stage, identifying who, when, where, and how different food items have been handled.

Mandatory compliance to regulations such as FSMA or EU 178/2002, as well as voluntary compliance to ISO 22000 standards,  enforce safety and transparent record-keeping for food products, produce and ingredients, even as they travel across multiple regions of the world. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is also developing a food tracing system as well.

Automation technology such as mobile barcoding can create food traceability for the supply chain, granting visibility and high-quality inventory and material data in the process.

ALSO READ: Why Traceability Matters More Than Ever »

Why is Food Traceability So Important?

Ultimately, safety compliance is the primary impetus behind food traceability. According to the CDC, more than 120,000 Americans are hospitalized due to foodborne diseases each year. This can lead to costly food recalls that impact every partner and link in the supply chain carrying these food products. Not only is food traceability about doing the right thing for your business relationships as well as an ethical perspective, it also impacts your bottom line.

The introduction of FSMA (the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act), EU 178/2002, as well as the emergence of GS1 standards to make food safety procedures scalable and consistent, combined with the 24/7 visibility of social media, ensure that few—if any—food recalls escape the public eye. A single recall can put a food producer out of business.

Traceability can mitigate such risks by empowering organizations to proactively track product movements through the supply chain in real time and minimize the destruction of good products.

A mobile barcoding solution is integral to traceability initiatives.

A mobile barcoding solution is integral to traceability initiatives.


A FoodSafetyTech report explains that digital technologies are emerging as critical solutions in this sector. With complex traceability standards becoming more common, organizations must streamline how they gather, integrate and manage data in order to keep up with everyday documentation demands.

Traceability technology using mobile data collection and barcoding can do exactly that, positioning food and agri-product businesses to comply with FSMA, GS1, and other industry guidelines to enhance food safety through digital process automation.

LEARN MORE: Food Traceability Survival Guide »

According to the International Trade Centre, traceability technology can help reduce the scope of a recall by 50% to 95%.

How Food Traceability Helps with Compliance

Food traceability helps companies comply with government and industry regulations by:

  • Improving global food safety
  • Minimizing risk to human health
  • Avoiding economic loss

According to the International Trade Centre, traceability technology can help reduce the scope of a recall by 50% to 95%.

Traceability also ensures the recalled product can be:

  • Identified quickly and accurately in the supply chain.
  • Traced back through the supply chain, identifying who handled it, when and where.
  • Accurately located to potential sources of contamination in the supply chain.
  • Identified as the source of contamination or as at-risk, such as goods that moved through the same factory at the same time.
  • Pinpointed to only compromised food items for disposal, minimizing loss of good product.

These points are so important because food recalls continue to make daily headlines in mainstream media.

ALSO READ: Protect Your Brand with Traceability »

Achieving Traceability Through Mobile Data Collection

Moving away from outdated paper-based and manual processes is crucial to forging a successful path to traceability in your enterprise. Using mobile data collection and barcodes, distributors, manufacturers and other food supply chain companies can eliminate these inefficient processes by digitally automating material movements, generating transparency and traceability.

For example, RFgen helped ice cream manufacturer, Blue Bell Creameries, comply with federal and industry food safety standards through mobile barcoding. Digital automation enabled Blue Bell Creameries to achieve FDA compliance for food safety standards—and unlock additional workflow efficiencies throughout their business.

Introducing a system for food traceability can seem overwhelming, but today’s digital technologies are transforming how organizations gather and use data with surprising ease. RFgen’s experienced consultants leverage both technical and supply chain expertise to help businesses like yours assess, tailor and implement a scalable traceability solution for your enterprise, even at sites where connectivity to your ERP or network is limited.