Trying to make sense of product traceability!

February 28th, 2011

Does one back one forward traceability make our food supply chain any safer? In a word, NO.

The definition of traceability according to Wikipedia refers to the completeness of the information about every step in a process chain. Traceability is the ability to verify the history, location, or application of an item by means of documented recorded identification.

When we hear organizations like the FDA use the above term what they are referring to is the capability of bidirectional traceability or tracing products one step back one step forward. This means identifying the immediate supplier of the product and identifying the immediate recipient of the product, which is not the answer we need.
However the process also requires some level of common sense. I’m a man of faith, but blind faith really gets us no where when we are talking about food product traceability. GS1 has created a certification for traceability in cooperation with a number of organizations such as FMI, CIES and BASF.

So from a common sense perspective one would believe that all products we consume are safe, that all produce and grain products are traced back to the seed level. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Let’s just examine milk products or byproducts. In a post from two years ago, this author discussed what is happening in China where 13,000 babies were hospitalized and over 53,000 babies affected and that it could happen in North America. As recently as last week we heard that this was happening again in China with another protein look alike other than melamine. We are talking over two year’s folks.

So what best practices does your company deploy to protect your customers and theirs?

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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