New Report Finds More Traceability Issues Within Supply Chain

Lloyd's Register Foundation collaborates with RS Standards to research full traceability efforts in premium product markets.

With new developments in the FDA’s push for a safer food system, one must consider how different traceability management systems can be utilized and implemented in countries with little to no infrastructure.


RS Standards, a supply chain consulting company, investigated the impact of traceability on food safety in a review commissioned by the Lloyd's Register Foundation. With their findings, they have come to the conclusion that although increased traceability leads to safer food systems, looking at current initiatives successions can serve as a foundation for future developments in traceability.


With a focus on food safety, the report found that “most businesses cannot make improvements in full chain traceability without the collaboration of their wider supply chain. Standards, such as Global Standards (GS1)… are critically important for traceability infrastructure and interoperability.” Industry standards, along with requirements set by the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety, ensures that data remains consistent and transparent from farm to fork.


Future transparency initiatives

Current and future transparency initiatives have proven to be feasible within the United States, but are they scalable on a global level to countries with limited infrastructure? RS Standards conducted research to determine how full chain traceability has been demonstrated in high-value product markets.


Many ingredient-producing countries lack the technology and framework to implement these systems required by regulatory obligations. According to RS Standards: small-scale producers will require technology training along with financial assistance and continuing operational expenditures. The development of traceability systems that can be employed in facilities where labor is seasonal and people have poor digital literacy is a challenge for industry.


The review outlines various traceability techniques in addition to their flaws, limitations, benefits, and risks in various categories of technology: 1) Software 2) Internet of Things (IoT) 3) Food sensing technologies and 4) Physical testing.


RS Standards also states traceability claims must be substantiated by: third-party certification and assurance schemes that would require third-party auditors verifying production sites and chain of custody. One solution lies in open-source blockchain technology within a Traceability Management System to ensure public and private data is immutable. While companies are shifting their business models, the concern for total interoperability must be addressed and resolved by industry leaders. Instances of data breaches and Certificate of Analysis fraud are a few obstacles participants also combat in their regulatory operations.


The report’s final recommendations for closing the gap in traceability techniques and implementations include:

  1. Increasing traceability methods' capacity by providing guidance and education to low- and middle-income countries to meet the evolving regulatory and traceability demands.

  2. Conducting market research to determine consumers’ willingness to pay for improved traceability information on traceable products.

  3. Advocate for education in data security, cost implications, and financial opportunities to the low- and middle-income countries.

These recommendations align with the FDA’s New Era of Food Safety initiative which strives for Low- or No-Cost Traceability solutions, which is centered around new business models, an improved food culture, and leveraging technology to create a digitized, safer food system.


Download the full report "The impact of improved traceability on the safety of food" here.