An Introduction to Traceability for Processed Foods

  • Thomas A. ButterworthEmail author
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series A: Chemistry and Biology book series (NAPSA)


Traceability systems that are modelled after fresh produce are inadequate for processed foods. It is a common mistake since regulations and current scientific and trade literature on traceability generally do not specify sector-specific methods of implementing traceability. Most processed foods require more complex operations than fresh produce, and implementing traceability along with other quality initiatives will necessarily be more complex. Most processors recognize the increased complexity caused by the use of multiple ingredients for a single product and the manufacture of several products from different combinations of ingredients. As such, most processors believe they have adequate traceability systems in place. However, keeping track of the inputs and outputs are only parts of an effective traceability system. Processors tend to assume that internal traceability is well-known and controlled since yield, costs and certain quality parameters are well-known and controlled. However, traceability systems sometimes require unique information from processors since in-process mixing blurs the straight line that usually exists between inputs and outputs for fresh produce. Three different types of in-process blending can occur: blending that is “purposeful,” (ex. the manufacture of olive oil), blending that is “continuous,” (ex. a continuous evaporator) and blending that is “idiosyncratic” (ex. that which occurs in an aseptic surge tank). This third type of blending defies analysis for traceability. Each step in a process must be examined to determine if blending takes place, what type of blending it is, and how to accommodate the traceability system to it.


Food safety Traceability Processed foods 


Glossary of Terms


The amount of information that a traceability system demands,


Cleaning in-place

Common carrier

The entity, usually a third party, responsible for delivery of finished product


How far back or forward a traceability system traces or tracks (such as one up/one down)


Hazard analysis and critical control point


Any substance, including water, intentionally incorporated into the food during its manufacture, preparation, or treatment

Internal traceability

The ability to track what happens to raw materials, ingredients, primary packages, and finished products inside the processor’s operation


International Organization for Standardization


A written statement appearing on each container of processed food. Typically, a label contains, at a minimum, the product name, form & style, its net contents and the identity of the manufacturer. The information contained on a label does not change on a regular basis.


A collection of materials (ingredients, raw materials, or primary packaging materials) produced in the same time period under conditions as nearly uniform as possible, designated by a common code for identification

Lot identifier

A code which uniquely identifies a lot. Terms such as batch number, batch code, and lot number may all be synonymous with lot identifier. A production code and information from the label may also be considered to be a lot identifier.

One up/one down

A description of one level of depth of a traceability system. In a one up/one down system, each participant in the food supply chain is responsible for maintaining records about the products they receive, their use (i.e. the link between inputs and outputs) and to whom they were shipped, or sold.


The degree of assurance that a traceability system can pinpoint the movements of a particular ingredient to a single lot of finished product, or conversely, can pinpoint all the lot(s) of raw materials, ingredients, or primary packaging materials that make up a finished product

Primary producer

A farmer or grower


A member of the supply chain that typically receives inputs from primary producers, suppliers of ingredients and packaging materials and/or common carriers and transforms these inputs into some other form. This other form is typically packaged in a way that would preclude the addition of more inputs or processing without opening it. A supply chain may have more than one processor.

Production code

The identification printed on each container of processed food at the time of its manufacture. The production code uniquely identifies when the product was packaged (the year, day, and time period). It also uniquely identifies, by examination of the factory’s records, which factory manufactured the product12 and what production codes of raw agricultural commodities, ingredients, and packaging materials went into the product. The production code should be changed with sufficient frequency to enable ready identification of lots during their sale and distribution. Production codes should not extend over a period of more than one personnel shift.

Record keeping step

Also known as a critical tracking event,13 a point in a process where records are taken and new batch codes assigned for the purpose of traceability. Data taken could include input lot numbers, times, and other data to link the inputs to the outputs.

Ultimate processor

The last processor in a value chain to add ingredients or otherwise process a product

Suggestions for Further Reading

  1. Annotated EC Guidance on the Implementation of articles 11, 12, 16, 17, 18,19 and 20 of Regulation (EC) N° 178/2002 on General Food Law Conclusions of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.
  2. Can-Trace Decision Support System for Food Traceability Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2004.
  3. Can-Trace Integration Guidelines Final Report April 2006 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
  4. Can-Trace Multi-Ingredient Working Group Multi-Ingredient White Paper, March 2006 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
  5. Can-Trace Produce Pilot Project Report Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2004.
  6. Can-Trace Technology Guidelines Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, March 2006.
  7. CODEX: principles for traceability/product tracing as a tool within a food inspection and certification system CAC/GL 60-2006.
  8. Food Traceability Report (weekly e-newsletter).
  9. Ian Smith, Anthony Furness (eds) Improving traceability in food processing and distribution. (CRC – 31 Mar, 2006)Google Scholar
  10. International Standard ISO 22005, First Edition, 2007-05/15: traceability in the feed and food chain-General principles and basic requirements for system design and implementationGoogle Scholar
  11. Report on Can-Trace National Food Traceability Consultation Sessions Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, June 2005.
  12. Report of the Can-Trace Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Working Group Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 19 May 2004.
  13. Traceability Decision Support Tool Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Austin Food Tech Inc.GizaEgypt

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