In technical and economic reports prepared for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) offered advice for improving product traceability. This process helps follow a product through the supply chain from production through distribution—and trace it in the event of a public health concern. Currently, most food industry members keep such records in various formats, which may cause consistency problems.
IFT began the study by collecting information about 58 food companies’ product tracing methods. The majority of companies had some form of tracing system in place, be it a manual or an electronic system, and nearly all felt their systems were effective for traceability. One interesting finding was that the various tracking systems were inconsistent in their methods for collecting data and in their definitions for important terms like lot or batch. IFT called this type of variation a “major hindrance to effective product tracing.” Also, the type of information shared among trading partners differed, which also could be problematic during a recall.
The group suggested a standardized format for traceability, which despite the cost, would offer more targeted recalls, cost-effective recalls, better inventory control and more. The core recommendations were:
“1. Standardized expressions of key data elements should be agreed upon.
2. Education on Critical Tracking Events (CTE) and key data elements should be developed.
3. Evidence of appropriate implementation should be part of standard audits.
4. Each supply chain partner must:
• Identify CTE in order to trace product.
• Record standardized key data elements for each CTE
that link incoming with outgoing product, whether
product is transformed (internal tracing) or changes
location (external tracing).
• Provide FDA with relevant key data elements for each CTE, in an electronic format and within 24 hours of any request.”
IFT also submitted a list of best practices for data elements, record keeping, audits, training and more. To read the complete report, visit www.ift.org/cms/?pid=1002160.