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Why Now is the Time to Improve Traceability & Recalls

May 9, 2024

Why Now is the Time to Improve Traceability & Recalls

Food recalls have hit a five-year peak, signaling a critical need for change in food safety and recall effectiveness.The recent recalls of charcuterie meats, cantaloupe, cinnamon, and dairy products have included foods contaminated by listeria, Salmonella, lead, foreign objects, and non-food grade oil. Labeling errors – such as mislabeling of allergens – are also occurring with concerning frequency.

Beginning in January 2026, the new Food Traceability final rule aims to improve food recalls by facilitating faster identification and removal of potentially contaminated food from the marketplace. The rule, issued under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), will require food businesses – including farms, manufacturers, processors, distributors, restaurants, and retailers – to:

  • Develop traceability plans, assign traceability lot codes, and maintain accurate, up-to-date tracking records.
  • Keep accurate records about foods’ product descriptions, information about where foods came from, quantity and unit measure, etc.
  • Provide traceability information (quickly and accurately!) to the FDA upon request.

Despite the rule’s potential to help with recall effectiveness, the industry cannot afford to wait for its implementation. Better traceability will facilitate quicker, more thorough removal of contaminated products from the market. With rising concerns from consumers, regulators, and the industry, there’s a pressing call for immediate improvements in the recall process.

A shift in industry mindset is crucial—from an isolated approach to a coordinated effort across the supply chain. This means using standardized data and processes so that each step in a product's journey is meticulously documented and accessible, easing the traceability and recall process.

The industry must embrace a Recall Ready Community approach, focusing on standardized data, proactive communication, and a collaborative stance with supply chain partners. This streamlined approach is essential for conducting swift, accurate, and comprehensive recalls.

To accomplish this:

  • Use tech tools. Tech platforms are revolutionizing various aspects of the food industry, including recall management. From predictive analytics to automated traceability systems, tech is transforming and improving all aspects of the recall process. Tech tools can help assist with regulatory mandates, alleviate compliance burdens, and build confidence in stressful situations.
  • Improve traceability. Elevate traceability now, in advance of the new requirements. Having better traceability systems in place improves food safety – and will help immensely whenever recalls happen. 
  • Standardize data and processes. A Recall Ready Community approach, where everyone across the supply chain collaborates with shared plans and standardized data, will alleviate the complication and delays caused by disparate data and processes. A unified, collaborative approach to traceability and recalls will better protect people, brands, and businesses.
  • Collaborate with key stakeholders. Supply chain partners, regulatory agencies, tech providers, and other key stakeholders should collaborate to increase traceability, trackability, and transparency. By working together – and using cutting-edge tech tools – the industry can improve food safety, public health, and consumer trust.

With the Food Traceability rule on the horizon, the industry must act now to safeguard the health and safety of food, customers, and businesses. Improving transparency, traceability, collaboration, and recall management is the key to a safer food supply. 

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