Canadian Manufacturing

Traceability systems needed to increase trust in food safety: report

Conference Board of Canada says public trust, safety at risk without such a system


OTTAWA—The Conference Board of Canada is encouraging “all players” in Canada’s food supply chain to implement a traceability system in the wake of recent product recalls.

According to the Conference Board, the recalls in Canada and around the world reinforce the need for a traceability system to protect the safety and quality of the global food supply.

Without such a system, the organization says, public trust and public safety are at risk.

The Conference Board’s Centre for Food in Canada published a report that recommends all supply chain members be able to trace where they got a product or ingredient from, and where they sent that product.

In other words, each firm in the food supply chain needs to be able to accurately trace its products or ingredients one step forward and one step back in the supply chain.

“Food traceability is a vital part of the food risk management system,” Conference Board principle research assistant Alison Howard said in a statement. “It underpins Canadians’ trust in food safety, quality and healthiness.

“The ability to trace a product’s journey from point of sale back to its origin is a vital part of today’s food risk management system.”

Many food industry firms in Canada already comply with the principle of one-step-forward and one-step-back because of export requirements, private standards and their own internal food safety practices.

To be fully effective, however, the Conference Board says traceability systems should all link together so that the entire food supply chain is covered.

The one-step-forward and one-step-back approach to traceability can be universally implemented, but, at the same time, lessens the financial burden borne by companies.

While it might be ideal for companies to be able to trace a product or ingredient throughout the entire supply chain, such a process is extremely complex and prohibitively expensive.

The report, Forging Stronger Links: Traceability and the Canadian Food Supply Chain, highlights actions that governments and industry could take to strengthen traceability role in the food supply chain:

  • Mandate minimum traceability requirements so that suppliers can trace their products and ingredients one step forward and one step back;
  • Make traceability systems universal and comprehensive;
  • Develop traceability systems to be compatible, so that information about food products can be communicated quickly and easily throughout the supply chain and with government authorities in the event of a safety problem;
  • Make premises identification mandatory for poultry and livestock producers;
  • Require detailed information to handle emergencies quickly;
  • Help to fund firm’s start-up costs and encourage flexible, cost-effective systems;
  • Promote the benefits of participation in traceability systems to all players in the food supply chain; and
  • Use continuous evaluation to improve system performance