Food Traceability: A Response to Consumers

Dr. Alfredo M. Montes Niño

International Consultant, Food and Agriculture Organization—World Health Organization

I will start with some definitions of traceability as it refers to food. This term and the concept behind it also apply to other industrial products. In the food area, traceability is important for commercial and safety reasons. Definitions allow us to distinguish the scope covered by this concept and establish legal requirements. Possible consequences of the legal requirements are violations of established rules that end up as disputes or cases.

The importance of Codex Alimentarius definitions, as you may know, is that these standards have been adopted by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in its Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement as practically the highest standards that a country can set for its import requirements.

  • Codex Alimentarius: “Traceability is the ability to follow the food movement through its specified stages at production, processing, and distribution” (WHO/FAO, 2004).

The European Union (EU) has established its own definition. This has to be considered in cases of exports to that region despite the right of countries to initiate actions within the scope of WTO procedures.

  • Rule EC 178/2002, Article 3: “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 production, processing and distribution” (EU, 2002).

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