Traceability of foods and foodborne hazards

Kaarina Aarnisalo, Seppo Heiskanen, Kaarle Jaakkola, Eva Landor, Laura Raaska

    Research output: Book/ReportReport

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    In the beginning of 2005 came in force the EU General Food Law (178/2002), where a system is required from food processors for identifying the origin of raw materials of food products and the destination of final products i.e. one step forward and one step backward in the production chain. According to this law, 'traceability' means the ability to trace and follow a food, feed, food-producing animal or substance intended to be, or expected to be incorporated into a food or feed, through all stages of production, processing and distribution. In addition to the EU regulation, several countries have enacted specific legislative measures. In addition to increased requirements of legislation, consumer demands for transparency have also increased which has led to further development of harmonious traceability systems. In Finland, the new legislation caused concern, but in reality, old operation modes had already fulfilled the requirements in many cases. Certainly data systems can and should be developed so, that they serve better and faster than earlier systems the needs of traceability. In the report by the Finnish Food and Drink Industries' Federation and the Finnish Grocery Trade Association on food traceability in Finland (2005), three development steps of traceability for food companies have been defined. The ultimate aim is that traceability systems would work totally electronically and with new technologies such as RFID and no paper records would be needed. Hazards, e.g. pathogenic microbes and allergens in food products, can cause significant health risks for people belonging to risk groups of those hazards and they must be efficiently traced in food chains. The faster the defective product is drawn from the market, the less the company receives negative publicity and the undamage to the image of a company is minimized. Process traceability, i.e. the ability to follow the manufacture of ingredients and materials into a product, is not required in EU legislation. However, the better the process traceability is, the bounded and accurate withdrawal can be performed when necessary. Traceability is a preventive, necessary, supplement of food safety systems, which increases the efficiency of food companies, when used correctly. Some pioneer companies have been developing their own traceability systems primarily to reduce business risk, but they have been lacking standards, which has resulted in very differentiated systems. As a consequence these systems have been producing different economical results. However, work on standardization has been going on as well as building of general frameworks for setting up traceability systems. Information Technology (IT) has the potential of revolutionizing product traceability. In practice the tools for traceability are labels containing alphanumerical codes (a sequence of numbers and letters of various sizes, generally "owners" codes), bar codes and automatic radio frequency identification (RFID), of which bar codes seem to be the most frequently used systems currently. RFID is a very promising technique, but problem is still the high cost of TAGs used in these systems, even though the prices have decreased significantly in recent years. In traceability investigations often the origin of plant or animal based raw material is sought, e.g. if genetically modified organisms (GMO's) have been used as raw materials or if product contains components hazardous for consumer health or e.g. raw materials of wrong quality. It is very difficult to determine the geographical origin of a food, the requirement imposed by the EU regulation 178/2002. Universal scientific methods for the determination do not exist and indirect methods have to be coupled. Modern analytical techniques in analyzing the origin of foodstuffs can be categorized into two types: the physicochemical techniques and biological techniques. The main problem in all these techniques is the need of data banks.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEspoo
    PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
    Number of pages52
    ISBN (Electronic)978-951-38-6940-3
    ISBN (Print)978-951-38-6926-7
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    MoE publication typeNot Eligible

    Publication series

    SeriesVTT Tiedotteita - Meddelanden - Research Notes


    • food industry
    • risk assessment
    • foodborne hazards
    • traceability
    • pathogens
    • allergens
    • legislation
    • standardization
    • bar codes
    • radio frequency identification
    • RFID
    • analytical methods
    • requirements


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