Retrieval of traceability information
Regulation (EC) 178/2002 requires that food business operators are able to make relevant traceability information available to competent authorities on demand or at least within a reasonable period of time.
Food business operations should therefore have in place structured mechanisms of record keeping, maintenance and retrieval to deliver the information upon request. Any delay in delivery could undermine a prompt reaction to a food safety issue.
The appropriate period of time will relate to the product characteristics, the nature and complexity of the production process and the relative food safety risks. The food business operation should therefore determine a target time of reaction for traceability data availability. This is in order to be able to make it available to whomever needs to know, be it the competent authority or other food chain partners, and allow timely action to be taken. There may be specific legal requirements relating to the maintenance of traceability records for a particular product for a set length of time e.g. health tags are required for shellfish and must be kept for 60 days.
There is no one timeframe that necessarily fits all food business operations. No specific time is set in Regulations. The BRC standard specifies that full traceability should be achievable within four hours, whereas the IFS standard specifies that the timeframe for production of records should be compliant with customer requirements.
It may be that certain critical information should be immediately available. This might include supplier and customer detail; that is the one down one forward external traceability information. Other information may then be made available as soon as reasonably practicable, within targets appropriate to circumstances. This might include the information related to internal traceability; that is the more detailed information relating to the process operations.
It is appropriate for a food business operation to have in place, implement and maintain a traceability record keeping and retrieval system to meet the expectations of the competent authorities and customers. The BRC and IFS voluntary standards specify that that the traceability system should be tested on a periodic basis to verify the effectiveness of the traceability system, including retrieval of the information.