Components of traceability

Components of traceability

Traceability system flowchart

Traceability systems have three basic components: supplier (one step back) traceability, process (internal) traceability, and customer (one step forward) traceability. Linked to these basic components of traceability are efficient record keeping and the ability to provide relevant information on demand.

Categories of information

There are two categories of information relating to traceability.

  • Internal traceability, which relates to the production history within an operation.
  • External traceability, which relates to product information that an operation receives from suppliers (the preceding point in the supply chain) or provides to customers (the next point in the food chain).

Traceability information that is external and internal to a food business operation is given in the attached diagram.


Traceability basics

Taking into account all that is required by legislation and industry standards the basis of a traceability system in the food supply chain is:

  • Identify and trace what is received from suppliers, which enables the source of materials used to be identified (one step down external traceability).
  • Identify and trace what is made, from what, when and how, which enables the identity of raw materials and process or handling records for each lot (internal process traceability).
  • Identify and trace the customer delivery destination of supplied product, which enables to whom product has been supplied to be identified (one step up external traceability).

This is in turn, linked to efficient and appropriate record keeping.


Record keeping

The food supply chain is a series of separate operations in sequence (farm to market), each linked by the products supplied to them from a preceding operation (the one step back or down) and the products they supply to the next operation (the one step or forward).

Each operator in the chain records information which links the separate operations with their own traceability system. Each operator is responsible only for the stage of the chain under their control. By linking each stage in the chain whole chain traceability can be achieved.