Connecting the Dots with Whole Chain Traceability

  • Andrew W. KennedyEmail author
  • Jennifer McEntire
Part of the Food Microbiology and Food Safety book series (FMFS)


The term, “Whole Chain Traceability” refers to a combination of internal traceability systems and external traceability systems applied in a consistent way across the food industry. This level of interoperability requires global, food industry-wide agreement and adoption of product and location identification standards; Critical Tracking Event (CTE) and Key Data Element (KDE) content, structure, and capture; and common data sharing communication technology frameworks.

Drivers for Whole Chain Traceability vary by stakeholder. Regulatory bodies charged with investigating foodborne illnesses see traceback data across the supply chain, epidemiological data and food and environmental testing data as three critical inputs in outbreak investigations. The food industry is finding, based on successfully implemented industry segments, discrete supply chains and pilot testing, that Whole Chain Traceability can increase profitability by improving the quality of food produced, supporting belief attributes, preventing counterfeiting and protecting entire markets. Food industry segments that stand the most to gain by implementing processes and systems that enable Whole Chain Traceability face significant hurdles due to their size, structure and competitive dynamics. Some of these supply chains include fresh produce, seafood, baby formula, flour, spices, coffee, cheese, chocolate, honey, olive oil, meat and large consumer packaged goods companies with extensive global supply chains. Consumers, who vote multiple times a day with their wallets, consider food functional, as medicine, fashion, entertainment and, often, as a political statement – an image that is often shattered by food scandals that could have been avoided or mitigated with Whole Chain Traceability.

Looking ahead, one can imagine that the cost and ubiquity of sensors, mobile devices, robots, artificial intelligence and Blockchain will accelerate the development of Whole Chain Traceability for the food industry globally. Currently, data sharing is managed explicitly between two or more parties. The challenge for the industry will be to agree on what traceability data is necessary to capture and store in the hyper-connected, immutable world of Blockchain – and how to retain best data stewardship and governance practices.


Whole chain traceability Interoperability Supply chain Blockchain 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Food TechnologistsWashington, DCUSA
  2. 2.United Fresh Produce AssociationWashington, DCUSA

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