What is traceability in Food Safety?

What is traceability in Food Safety?

Traceability is a key part of food safety and is deeply ingrained in UK and European food legislation. It is the name given, under law, to the ability to track any feed, food, food-producing animal or substance that will be used in the consumption, processing, production, and distribution of food products across the European Union. In more technical terms, it is a tool designed for food business operators and authorities to minimise risk and recall items or withdraw products from general purchase should they be identified as unsafe or unfit for consumption. The European Union consider it the cornerstone of food safety policy.

Why is it important?

There are several reasons why traceability is so important for food manufacturers in the EU. Mostly, it’s a way to respond to the list of ever-changing risks that are associated with food safety. Legislation protects standards and practices of food production across Europe, and traceability allows us to ensure that all food products are safe and suitable for consumption by European citizens. Moreover, if producers or authorities can identify a problem quickly through traceability procedures, they can solve the problem more quickly and prevent similar issues occurring again.

We also need to consider how traceability can help reduce uncertainty and risk in international and national trade. Targeted withdrawals of bad products mean that accurate information about bad products can easily be given to the public, which causes minimal disruption to trade throughout Europe. Traceability ensures that past food crises, such as the discovery of BSE in meat, do not happen again and, if traces are found, the products never reach the consumer.

The General Food Law

The EU’s current law on food traceability is called the General Food Law. It makes traceability a compulsory practice for all food and feed businesses, and provides sector-specific legislation to certain food groups. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also subject to specific rules under traceability. Currently, there are also two systems for alerting authorities about food issues: RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) and TRACES, a system to manage the movement and disease prevention of animals.