IFT issues food traceability best practices guidance doc

August 20, 2014

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC) has issued a guidance document on the best practices in food traceability. This document provides a comprehensive framework for six food industry sectors—bakery, dairy, meat and poultry, processed foods, produce, and seafood—and summarizes the similarities and differences among them in regards to traceability. Given the complexity of the global food system, guidance on improving traceability practices across the entire food industry is a challenge.

“Our guidance document helps fill in one of the most significant gaps that regulators face when developing new policies—‘What is the industry currently capable of doing and how much can realistically be asked of them?’” said Tejas Bhatt, Program Director of the GFTC, and one of the lead authors. “This document can facilitate more balanced, effective, science-based, and cost-conscious policies and serve as a blueprint for what is practical for the food industry to improve food safety, save money, and help protect the public.”

According to the guidance document, there are various points in a supply chain at which data capture is necessary. These points are referred to as critical tracking events (CTEs), and at these points it is necessary to collect and store key data elements (KDEs). Critical tracking events include:

  • Transportation events typically support external product tracing between supply-chain locations, resulting from the physical movement of product by air, truck, rail, or ship from one supply-chain location to another supply-chain location.
  • Transformation events support internal product tracing within the four walls of a company. Examples include when product ingredients from one or more suppliers or sources are combined, or when a product is further processed such as by cutting, cooking, or repacking.
  • Depletion events capture how product is removed from the supply chain, such as when a case of fresh produce is opened and placed in self-service bins at a retail grocery store, or a packaged product is sold at a retail grocery store, or when a case of product is used in preparing menu items at a restaurant.

In September 2013, IFT launched the Global Food Traceability Center, a not-for-profit collaborative, public-private partnership. The GFTC brings together key stakeholders in the agri-food system to collaborate on product tracing solutions and serves as an authoritative, scientific, and unbiased source for food traceability. It assists companies and government agencies to better understand the nature of food traceability requirements, how to use technologies to improve responsiveness and reliability in the event of food-related emergencies, and the value and commercial benefits of food traceability.

Fifty-five experts from 11 countries were involved in developing this guidance document. The document appears in the September 2014 issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety.

Guidance document