News Feature | May 29, 2014

Global Food Traceability Standards Are Key To Food Safety

Global Food Traceability

By Melissa Lind, contributing writer

In recent meetings, U.S. and European Union official have been addressing the need for international food supply chain standards

Each day that food is manufactured, processed, or harvested brings the looming threat of a food safety crisis. This threat grows even bigger as more and more of the food supply becomes globally issued or sourced. This means ensuring traceability of the food supply from raw materials and packaging all the way to the consumer has become a global issue and is absolutely essential to not only protect your brand, but more importantly ensure consumer safety.

A lack of international standards has been blamed for an inability to respond in a timely and adequate fashion to food safety concerns such as recalling adulterated food products.  The worldwide adoption of food supply chain management and safety procedures would ensure that food supplies could be traced from ingredient all the way to the consumer, regardless of the country.

Following a number of safety concerns within the past decade, this need for traceability within the U.S. has been addressed by the FDA.  The agency created and appointed the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to conduct analysis and testing of food supply chain management issues. IFT recently issued its analysis report with recommendations for the FDA. IFT suggestions include establishing uniform recordkeeping and tracing requirements, ideally using electronic media across the entire food supply chain, eliminating exemptions to this requirement. Additionally, the group recommends that proposed plans by industry members be submitted for approval. The FDA is now soliciting comments in preparation for its presentation to Congress.

How Real Time Monitoring Can Improve Food Safety

The development of international standards has been addressed by the European Commission’s Directorate General Health which established the Product Traceability Expert Group to improve safety and supply management across the European Union. The Group has issued its own report titled, Research Support for an Informal Expert Group on Product Traceability Report. This document addresses supply chain management and traceability issues and it establishes best practices to be used in product traceability. The recommendations were developed following two years of industry-wide dialogue within the European Union.

Consumers Global Standards One (GS1) has been a main player in the development of international standards for supply chain management in food and other industries.  GS1, a non-profit organization, which has members in over 100 countries, was one of 15 participants in the Product Traceability Expert Group, authored many of the standards incorporated into the report with corresponding ISO regulations.

GS1 also developed the concept for the Uniform Grocery Product Code, utilizing bar coding to ensure the safety of the food supply chain.  U.S. product codes are currently maintained by GS1 technology which maintains product codes for most of its member countries as well.

Implementation of international standards would enable food suppliers at all levels to quickly trace and eliminate any threats within the food supply chain. The EU currently requires all food imports to adhere to this standard at a company level.  However, implementation of any standards in the U.S. and other areas of the world are still in the discussion stage.