At its foundation, traceability is about the who, what, when, where, why and how of the food as it moves, from production to retail through its supply chain. Unfortunately, the growing complexity and interdependencies of the global food system exponentially impacts the amount of data collected, stored, distributed and shared for the purpose of enabling end-to-end traceability.

Why update our standards?

Traditionally, traceability recordkeeping has been utilized by regulatory agencies to initiate recalls in response to foodborne outbreaks. Historically, the food industry has considered traceability as a cost burden of compliance with such regulatory requirements. Misperceptions—such as traceability being the responsibility of a single company or that technology could solve all the problems in enabling traceability—proliferated.

“Consumers are increasingly vocal about greater transparency from the supply chains.”

More recently, however, research has concluded that traceability lies at the intersection of public good and private benefit. The U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act transforms FDA from a reactive to a preventive regulatory framework, allowing the FDA to improve traceability recordkeeping for high-risk foods to more effectively resolve epidemiological investigations and solve more foodborne outbreaks to protect consumer health and safety.

The result

Businesses are already starting to extract value from effective traceability practices, through expanded market access, reduced exposure to risk and improved supply chain efficiencies. Today we are at a crossroads where traceability is being used as a tool to enable positive systemic change in the way we connect with our food supply. Consumers are increasingly vocal about greater transparency from the supply chains.

Businesses are also engaging on a pre-competitive basis to unleash the power of traceability to address issues facing the global food system. Some include: reducing waste for food security (access); reducing environmental impact for food sustainability (productivity); protecting public health through food safety (unintentional contamination); and mitigating risks from bioterrorism for food defense (intentional contamination).

As the science of food traceability evolves and best practices in traceability emerge, there is a real possibility that food traceability becomes a revolutionary tool for radically changing our relationship with the foods we consume.

How it works

From seed to sale, the ingredients in your morning cappuccino have traveled many miles.


Coffee farming centers on the harvesting of coffee cherry trees, which are still mostly picked by hand.


Once the coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to prevent fruit spoilage.


Once dried and divvied up, milled beans are loaded up for a distribution.


For freshness, imported beans are roasted as close to the retail point of sale as possible.