What is Food Traceability?

Food Traceability is the ability to track the production process of any food from raw ingredients, additives, processing, to distribution. It’s a system for tracking the quality and safety of food at all stages of production, and a means to create transparency and accountability across food and beverage manufacturing facilities.


What is a Food Traceability List?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has designated high-risk foods for which additional record keeping requirements are appropriate and necessary to protect public health. These high-risk food products should not only be tracked in individual units but also as ingredients in final products.

Some examples of products on this list include cheeses, shell eggs, nut butter, fruits and vegetables, herbs, etc. (essentially, most food products must be traced)

Two Components of Food Traceability

Tracking in Food Traceability

Tracking is the act of locating where the individual product unit or batch is at any given point in time during the production process. Tracking spans from manufacturing to distribution and consumer consumption.

Tracing in Food Traceability

Tracing is the documentation of how a food product has progressed down the production chain. It records any information regarding sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, and shipping. These are often known as batch records or electronic batch records.


Benefits of Food Traceability

Traceability allows food businesses to address critical issues without disrupting the trade or the market.

Regulatory Compliance (FDA)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires most food industries to develop and document records that go “one step forward to where food has gone and one step back to its immediate previous source”.

Corrective Action (Root Cause Analysis)

In the case of a food-borne illness outbreak or contamination event, food traceability allows for efficient and accurate identification and tracing of where and when the problem might have occurred during the production process. It quickly uncovers the root cause so that produced foods in the same batch can be discarded or pulled, reducing further contaminations and recalls.

Here are the different types of written documents required for recalling foods:

  • Where the raw ingredients were sourced

  • Volume or quantity of foods

  • Batch or lot identification numbers

  • Where each batch was delivered

Preventive Action

Based on the detailed tracings of food production, any high-risk processes can be corrected ahead of time to prevent quality or safety issues. This includes making sure all the personnel are well trained, line clearance is routinely run, and raw materials are stored and used properly.

Value Stream Mapping

Since traceability monitors how products move through the manufacturing process, it helps with value stream mapping. Equipped with detailed product genealogy records, manufacturers gain supply chain visibility, which provides a much more granular picture of their operations’ value stream.

What does a good Food Traceability System look like?

An effective food traceability system will keep track of all the materials, suppliers, producers, and operators involved during the production process.

The most recent publication released by the FDA, “The New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint”, lists some of the ideal data points that food producers and regulators should strive to collect using emerging food tracing technologies:

  • Knowing that the water used to grow the produce is safe because it was monitored in real-time using sensor monitoring on a smart device.

  • Scanning a bag of lettuce and being able to immediately know where it came from to determine if it’s tied to an outbreak of foodborne illness.

  • Knowing that the workers use safe-food handling practices and that they have been properly trained and checked.

As suggested by the FDA, a good food traceability system should incorporate some form of digital technology to more accurately, quickly, and safely collect food production data. When the health of consumers are at stake, real-time production data can make all the difference in reducing potential recalls and downtime costs.

Digitizing Food Traceability

Dynamic food manufacturing environments call for dynamic solutions. And although complex systems may cover most business requirements, one size does not fit all.

Each food is different, each production process is different, and each QA process is different. Therefore, a dynamic solution that is easily configurable to the exact specifications of a product can help correct and prevent the smallest of errors in production.

Here’s an example of how Tulip’s electronic batch records can help with food traceability:

Electronic Batch Records for Food Traceability

With the help of barcodes, scanners, and manual data entry, raw ingredients and products can easily be tracked at every station using Tulip. No need to plaster post-its everywhere reminding workers to scan products: simply add a step to the workflow as part of the digital work instructions apps. Then, access all collected information and machine data in a Traceability app using digital history records.


Using Tulip’s guided workflows to collect info and digital batch records capabilities to view the records, you can accomplish any of the following:

  • Create a table that stores all batch records

  • Have the ability to search and filter that table by individual, batch, and more

  • Allow an operator to log a new batch before beginning work

  • Give recommendations for specific quantities based on the size of the batch and the recipe for each product made specified in a BOM and instruction table

  • Validate that the operator entered the correct quantities of each ingredient before they can proceed

Here is an example of how batch entries are reviewed in Tulip’s Digital History Record app:


Streamline Your Traceability Procedures With Tulip

Learn how you can simplify your food safety and traceability practices with no-code apps.

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