Food safety and quality

Traceability & recalls

Traceability or product tracing is defined by the Codex Alimentarius Commission as “the ability to follow the movement of a food through specified stage(s) of production, processing and distribution”. Traceability within food control systems is applied as a tool to control food hazards, provide reliable product information and guarantee product authenticity. Recall or Product Recall is defined as “the action to remove food from the market at any stage of the food chain, including that possessed by consumers”. Food recall is a fundamental tool in the management of risks in response to food safety events and emergencies. Traceability and recalls are essential components of a national food control system.

FAO’s work on traceability & recalls

All participants in modern supply chains are expected to have effective practices in place that allow for the rapid identification, location, and withdrawal of food lots when problems are suspected or confirmed. This requires the identification and adoption of business practices that enable trading partners in the food industry to track and trace a product throughout the entire supply chain. Traceability can be utilized and/or is necessary for a variety of business purposes, including:

  • Product recalls/market withdrawals;
  • Regulatory compliance;
  • Market access;
  • Public health trace-backs;
  • Food safety and quality assurance; and
  • Process and order management.

Ensuring such effective practices is an on-going challenge, in particular across complex and global supply chains.

FAO supports and assists in the adoption of business practices amongst the large array of trading partners, from the farmer or grower to internationally sourced suppliers to effectively manage traceability for the food industry. By drawing on demonstrated best practices, FAO also supports competent and national authorities to develop, review and implement effective national food recall systems as a key management tool to prepare for and respond to food safety events or emergencies.