Food Traceability – Essence of Food Supply Chains

, 15 minute read

Quick summary: Traceability is an important tool that tracks the product from the source to consumption and brings transparency to food supply chains. Food Traceability systems protect consumer health, build trustworthy brands, satisfy regulatory compliance and make the supply chain efficient and resilient.

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Food traceability is a very critical factor for our food supply chains. Food traceability refers to the ability to track the journey of food through the various stages of production, processing and distribution. Globalization has resulted in fragmentation of supply chains leading to food related illness prompting consumers to demand transparency in the food they consume. Traceability has become essential to ensure safety and quality of the product. In this blog, we shall explore the essence of food traceability, its importance in ensuring a safe and a sustainable food supply chain and how blockchain technology can help in food supply chain management.

What is the food supply chain?

The food supply chain is the journey of food starting from the farms where it is grown to the plate, where it is consumed. The food moves from the producers, the manufacturers, the processors, the distributors, the retailers, and finally the consumers.

The food supply chain is getting longer and more complex and susceptible to innumerable risks unsettling all the stakeholders in the network. Producers, manufacturers, distributors, logistic providers are always under pressure to deliver their products to the market quickly and safely which is a major challenge. Enhancing food traceability in the supply chain is a preventive measure against food safety challenges.

The key to consumer’s demand for high-quality food starts from the producer where the issues regarding how the food was grown and what effect it had on the environment are important and as it travels down the chain, how are the processes managed with quality systems in place is crucial. In other words, the transparency of the entire product journey matters the most.  

  • All foodborne illness starts with the food supply chain. The news on outbreaks of disease we hear frequently, the associated food recalls and withdrawals are serious issues that torment the food supply chain. Lack of transparency and traceable systems are the major causes of these incidents. 
  • With a complex network of actors in the food supply chain, the gaps in communication can lead to mismanagement and chaos resulting in health hazards. 
  • Food fraud and counterfeit are rampant in the food supply chain. Lack of trust and the weak links in the network makes it susceptible to food scandals. 
  • Food wastage is a major concern in food supply chains. Inability to capture data in real-time results in bad inventory management and hence accounts for losses. 

The supply chain is a complicated network that requires participants from all parts of the globe to collaborate, adhere to the quality standards and adopt best practices to increase the Agri-economy.

Why is Food Supply Chain management important? 

Food supply chain management helps to meet the demands of consumers as regards to quality and safety of food along with the sustainable practices adopted and its provenance. Implementing a certified supply chain management satisfies the regulatory requirements, reduces the overall risk, and makes it cost-effective. 

The impact of Food wastage in supply chains

Food loss occurs during production, processing and transportation while food wastage occurs in retail and end consumption. About one third of the food produced is wasted annually.

Food safety incidents result in costly food recall, market withdrawals, and quality alerts. Food supply chain management addresses these issues to deliver high-quality food.

Food recalls cost companies an average of $10 million in direct costs alone

Certification against sustainability standards of primary production and verification of other processes delivers an authentic product to the consumer.

The processing and handling of food according to complying standards give the product greater credibility in the global markets. 

An increase in visibility in the food supply chain will help in improving the collaboration, sharing of information, and adapting to disruptions. An efficient supply chain is vital to the profitability and safety of the food industry. Technology advancements in supply chain management can ensure open lines of communication and data analysis in the food supply chain. This could build a robust and resilient supply chain. 

Food manufacturers are willing to embrace new trends in technology to bring about streamlining of processes in conformance to safety standards and thereby realize a profitable business and brand loyalty with consumers. 

How does Traceability help in Supply Chain Management?

1Firms that do not invest in traceability will be more vulnerable to supply chain disruptions and allegations about product safety or provenance.  

Digitization is the first step towards realizing efficient Food Supply chain systems. Harnessing the power of emerging technologies like the blockchain can help in building robust and resilient food supply chains and ensure a quality product for the consumer. Technology helps to manage the supply chain efficiently and assure transparency across the entire food supply chain. 

Traceability – a system to track the product from source to consumption is an important tool to increase transparency in food supply chains. A well-placed traceability system can bring in food safety control, cater to regulatory food standards and respond timely to safety breaches. 

What is traceability in Food supply chains? 

Digital ledgers that track and trace the products from farm to fork help to address the supply chain challenges, ensuring minimal food recalls and avoiding health hazards.

Tracing involves the history of the product right from its origin.

For example, it would be interesting to know where the iceberg lettuce in your burger came from? Or, where did the green beans of your strong cup of joe come from? Tracking involves the forward path from source to destination. How the same lettuce traveled through the supply chain to the burger or how the green beans traveled through the various stages of processing to reach the roasters. Both the components play a vital role in the food supply chain. 

GEFP was able to showcase the authenticity of their products and realize quality yields.

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The upstream participants who are the producers and manufacturers and the downstream participants who are the distributors and retailers have to store and handle the traceability information to satisfy the regulatory compliance and prove the credibility of the product to the final consumer. 

Food Traceability can be defined as the ability to track a product batch and its history right from the production, harvest, processing, transportation, storage, and distribution along the supply chain.  

It can be considered as a quality tool to capture and record information about the product at each stage in the food supply chain. While there are a number of definitions of Traceability according to various ISO standards, the General Food Law defines traceability as the ability to track and follow a food, feed through all stages of processing, storage, and distribution. 

Food Traceability systems have the potential to increase security, quality, and reliability and have an impact on consumer protection and organization productivity. It prevents health hazards and increases environmental sustainability thereby delivering a trusted product to the consumer. To achieve end-to-end visibility and transparency, it is necessary that all stakeholders in the network are able to communicate and collaborate on a single platform and exchange relevant information. 

There is a new dimension to food traceability which is the need for collaboration in the vast ecosystem  

How is digitization achieved through traceability? 

Digitization is vital for all food organizations to realize efficient, cost-effective, trusted, and transparent supply chains. Food traceability is crucial to demonstrate transparency to the consumers and accountability to the regulators. End-to-end traceability requires well-planned resources in place to get the desired results and this is possible with Traceability software. 

Traceability software tracks the product right from the source of raw materials, how they were used in the manufacturing process, and the different paths to the end destination. To realize end-to-end traceability, the data needs to be captured at all points in its transit. The starting point of traceability is the origin of the product and under what conditions it was sourced. 

Do you have the answers to these questions? 

Source: Freepik

Are you prepared for a product recall? 

Are your processes complying with regulatory standards? 

Are you using the best traceability software? 

Let us look into what Food traceability software should do. 

  • Capture the entire history of items including the lots/batches and serial numbers  
  • Track every transaction starting from source, through manufacturing till the time it leaves your warehouse. 
  • Recording of the exact time and date of each transaction  
  • The information regarding the responsibility of all the processes should be established and recorded to enable easy auditing. 
  • Customization in different scenarios with necessary standardization 
  • Capturing how long the products have remained in the manufacturing stage or the storage. 
  • Validation and tracking of lot numbers throughout the product life cycle. 
  • Monitoring of inventory levels and its management with FIFO principals the quality certifications at each stage. 
  • Ability to document all ingredients at each stage in the event of recalls. 
  • Accurate labeling and traceability helping in times of food audits 

Impact of Food Traceability software for organizations. 

  • Minimizing scope of recalls. 

The ability to identify the targeted problem batches helps to pinpoint the batched that need to be recalled and isolated thereby reducing wastage and ensuring food safety to consumers and saving costs for the organizations. 

  • Brand reputation 

Brand image is critical to all organizations and delivering a safe product to the consumer with smoother withdrawals should gain brand loyalty. 

  • Competitive edge 

The effectiveness of recalls and the ability to target recalls in seconds gives the competitive edge and nurtures brand popularity and trust. 

  • Inventory management with streamlined processes 

Better insights can be gained to make informed decisions with inventory in place. Reduction in wastage has a huge impact on the economy and digitization keeps the business sustainable 

  • Compliance 

Elimination of paper-based systems with automation of records and the data analytics insights give better visibility and credibility. Verified data available at each stage smoothens the audit process and meets the compliance requirements. 

Source: Freepik

Get the best of Food Traceability solutions with Blockchain technology 

Every segment of the food industry needs to adopt the best practices in traceability to ensure their presence in the global market. In spite of the various food standards in a place like the GS1, FSSC, GFSI, there is a holistic view of food safety required in terms of prevention and proof of records. 

With Supply chain management and Food traceability being vital to an organization, relying on paper-based records, human memory, and working in silos cannot be afforded which calls for a digital traceability solution with Blockchain technology. In an era of food safety and transparency with regulatory requirements, a single source of trusted information on a shared platform with real-time metrics should provide the right solution. 

food traceability software, food traceability solution, traceability in supply chain, supply chain traceability

Digital transformation with a Cloud-based blockchain platform along with IoT and QR codes along with seamless integration and granularity should be able to build robust and reliable traceability solutions. 

What can Blockchain do to Food Traceability? 

Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology that has gained traction in supply chain management by proving product provenance and implementing effective track and trace systems. It enables transparency and accountability across the supply chain participants and the reliable data optimizes business decisions to reach higher standards of efficiency. 

Blockchain is a collection of encrypted and immutable blocks of transaction data linked together with each new block cryptographically linked to the previous one ensuring a tamper-proof block. The various processes in the food supply chain are recorded as transactions in this digital ledger and every time a product batch is created and moves to the next step in the supply chain, a transaction is created and added to the blockchain.  

All the stakeholders have access to this shared information which is available as recorded transactions and this facilitates easy tracking of products. The private and permissioned blockchain builds a consensus mechanism in the system to permit access control only to authorized users. Each block carrying the digital signature is secure and tamper-proof. Smart Contracts are programs that run automatically on a programmed basis 

Mobile data technology along with Blockchain traceability forms the complete traceability system. Collection of data is crucial for traceability and paperwork; manual entries produce errors that could be costly. Collecting traceability data on mobile should be a faster and error-free process to collect real-time data. 

A combination of cloud-based blockchain platforms with a mobile and a web application can provide a comprehensive food traceability solution.  

  • Onboarding the stakeholders on a common platform 
  • Mobile app for data entry 
  • Record product batches or serial batches 
  • Record product raw material and inputs 
  • Web-based app to record and monitor the various processes 
  • Record the different routes of product in cases of secondary processing 
  • Manage inventory records and generate receipts. 
  • Dashboards to track the progress of activities and real-time insights 
  • Uploading Quality certificates 
  • QR code scanning to showcase the farm to fork journey to the end-user 

Implementation of blockchain traceability systems would require customization at a granular level from the farms to the existing ERP systems in place and collection of data in real-time.

How do we use Blockchain in Agriculture supply chains? 

An awareness of consuming healthy food among the consumers and the technology movement across all domains has triggered the requirement of food supply chain management software in agri-businesses to assure food safety and end to end traceability in the agriculture supply chains

The technology transformations are required in the agri-supply chains to 

  • Meet the ever-increasing demand of growing population with safe food 
  • Fulfil the consumer demands on food transparency 
  • Advocate sustainable farming practices to reduce the carbon footprint 
  • Reduce the food supply chain costs 
  • Empower the farmers to give them visibility and a better future 

Agriculture technologies like IoT, geo-mapping of farms, precision agriculture, vertical farming, farm management, and crop management are driving agri- businesses to achieve greater food production and ensure efficient management of supply chains. 

The demand for food production brings its own challenges in terms of counterfeit and food fraud which disturb the ecosystem. The blockchain platform provides the necessary transparency and establishes trust among all the participants to realize an authentic product.

Benefits of Blockchain for Agriculture Supply Chains 

Blockchain has the potential to transform the way we manage and track the agriculture supply chain, promoting transparency, traceability, sustainability and improving food safety. Capturing the real-time data on the movement of products helps to streamline the processes, reduces waste and improves efficiency. The shared collaborative platform fosters trust among the stakeholders and builds accountability in the network. 

Research by Markets and Markets reveals that blockchain implementation in the agriculture supply chain generated $60.8 million in market value in 2018 and is predicted to generate $429.7 million in value by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 47.8% during that period. 

Blockchain technology along with IoT, RFID and QR code can transform the agriculture supply chain bringing in benefits of optimization, automation, productivity and transparency. 

Best of available Food traceability software 

Food traceability software allows organizations to track and manage information on food producers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers and provide the required food safety, and address risks in the food ecosystem. The entire supply chain management along with traceability can be provided on a SaaS platform 

These are some of the popular software available 

  • TraceX FOOD SIGN– Digital agriculture Blockchain solution for Supply chain Traceability 
  • FoodLogiQ – provides traceability, food safety compliance, and supply chain transparency option that integrates with existing systems 
  • Farmsoft – Fresh produce traceability, quality management, and shipping solutions. 
  • Radley traceability – Bi-directional Track and Trace solution for the food manufacturing industry. 
  • LogiTrack systems- Complete traceability solutions that enable whole chain traceability for produce growers, packers, and shippers. 
  • Provenance- Supply chain traceability based on blockchain technology 

The Food Traceability software enables businesses to be compliant with HACCP and FSMA requirements and fulfill the demands of the FDA 

Food Traceability- The Road ahead 

Traceability solutions built on transforming technologies address the challenges of the existing food systems.

Supply chain visibility, Transparency to the consumer, improved food safety and reduction in food wastage are a few of the benefits of Traceability that could empower the producers and inch towards the sustainability goals.

Traceability provides a great opportunity to create value for the producers, supply chain operators, and consumers. Check how traceability is transforming the food and agriculture industry. 

Technology-enabled end-to-end traceability could bring a significant change to supply chain management by capturing comprehensive data along the supply chain and allowing sharing and analysis of this data. Adopting the best practices of traceability can transform the environment to enable change. 


Summing it up Traceability in Food Supply chains impacts the Food system in these ways 

  • Supply chain optimization and reduction of losses 
  • Targeted food recalls ensuring public health safety 
  • Transparency in the food journey 
  • Verification of claims to ensure Sustainability

Optimize every aspect of your supply chain with traceability solutions and leverage our blockchain technology solutions to stay ahead of the curve.

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