Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the Queen's University Belfast's online course, Tackling Global Food Safety. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second So what is traceability?

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Under EU law, traceability means the ability to track any food, feed, food-producing animal, or substance that will be used for consumption through all stages of production, processing, and distribution.

Skip to 0 minutes and 23 seconds Traceability is a way of responding to potential risks that can arise in food and feed to ensure that all food products in the EU are safe for European consumers to eat.

Skip to 0 minutes and 37 seconds It is vital that when national authorities or food businesses identify a risk they can trace it back to its source in order to swiftly isolate the problem and prevent contaminated food products from reaching consumers.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds The EU’s General Food Law entered into force in 2002 and makes traceability compulsory for all food and feed businesses.

Skip to 1 minute and 6 seconds It requires that all food and feed operators implement special traceability systems.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds They must be able to identify where their products have come from and where they are going, and to rapidly provide this information to the competent authorities.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds The EU has published guidelines which requires business operators to document the names and addresses of the supplier and customer in each case, as well as the nature of the product and date of delivery.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds Operators are also encouraged to keep information on the volume or quantity of a product, the batch number if there is one, and a more detailed description of the product, such as whether it is raw or processed.

Skip to 1 minute and 59 seconds Tracing food through the production and distribution chain helps to identify and address risks and protect public health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds Traceability is a risk management tool which allows food business operators or authorities to withdraw or recall products that have been identified as unsafe. It is a cornerstone of the EU’s food safety policy.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds In addition to the general requirements, sector-specific legislation applies to certain categories of food products, fruit and vegetables, beef, fish, honey, and olive oil, so that consumers can identify their origin and authenticity.

Skip to 2 minutes and 48 seconds There are also special traceability rules for genetically modified organisms, GMOs, which ensure that the GM content of a product can be traced and require accurate labelling so that consumers can make an informed choice.

Skip to 3 minutes and 7 seconds In the case of animals, producers now must tag every one with details of their origin and when animals are taken for slaughter, stamp them with the traceability code of the abattoir.

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds The tools used, ear tags, passports, bar codes, may vary from one country to another but must carry the same information.

Skip to 3 minutes and 42 seconds The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, RASFF.

Skip to 3 minutes and 47 seconds The RASFF network, in place since 1979, was enhanced by the General Food Law in 2002. Members of the network are the 28 member states, the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.

Skip to 4 minutes and 10 seconds This warning system supports the traceability system by enabling the rapid exchange of information whenever a risk to food or feed safety is identified.

Skip to 4 minutes and 23 seconds If a member of the network becomes aware of a potential risk to human health, it notifies the European Commission, which immediately transmits this information to the other members and beyond so that corrective action can be rapidly taken.

Traceability and detection

Traceability is the ability to track any food, feed, food producing animal or substance that will be used for consumption, through all stages of production, processing and distribution - tracking the food from source to plate.

Traceability systems are a legal requirement for food products in some areas of the world, including the European Union.

This video will take a look at a number of traceability systems in more detail.

  • Can you suggest potential challenges to the effectiveness of such a traceability system, and identify ways in which they may be circumvented by those intent on committing food fraud?

Please share your thoughts in the discussion area below.

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Tackling Global Food Safety

Queen's University Belfast