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Traceability is a business process that enables trading partners to follow products as they move from field/farm through to retail store or food service operator. Each Traceability Partner must be able to identify the direct source (supplier) and direct recipient (customer) of product.
A traceability partner can be a grower, packer/repacker, distributor/trader, retail store or foodservice operator.
A company must determine what needs to be traced. This is commonly referred to as the “traceable item.” A traceable item can be:
- a product or traded item (e.g. case/carton, consumer item)
- a Logistic Unit (e.g. bin, container)
- a shipment or movement of a product or trade item
There must be agreement between trading partners on what the traceable item is. This ensures that both partners are tracking the same thing. Otherwise the chain will be broken. Each Trading Partner must define at least one level of traceable item for each shipment.
- All traceable items must be uniquely identified and this information is shared between all affected supply chain partners.
- At a minimum, the identification of products for the purpose of traceability requires:
- The assignment of a unique GS1 Global Trade Item Number (GTIN)
- The assignment of a batch / lot
- When a product is reconfigured and/or re-packed, the new product must be assigned a new unique product identification (i.e. GTIN). A linkage must be maintained between the new product and its original inputs.
- When a Logistic Unit is reconfigured, the new Logistic Unit must be assigned a new unique identification (i.e. SSCC). A linkage must be maintained between the new Logistic Unit and its original input.
- All supply chain parties must systematically link the physical flow of products with the flow of information about them. Traceable item identification numbers must be communicated on related business documents.
- Each Traceability Partner (company) must be able to identify the direct source (supplier) and direct recipient (customer) of traceable items. This is the “one step up, one step down” principle. This requires that supply chain partners collect, record/store and share minimum pieces of information for traceability which are described in the sections which follow.
- All supply chain parties require both internal and external traceability. (Implementation of internal traceability must ensure that the necessary linkages between inputs and outputs are maintained.)
- Any asset (e.g. returnable pallet) which needs to be traced forward or traced back must be uniquely identified.
- Labels showing the traceable item identification number must remain on the packaging until the traceable item is consumed or destroyed (by the next trading partner).