by Kim Butz, CFSA South Carolina Local Produce Safety Coordinator | Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 —

What is traceability, why is it important in our food systems, and how does it work?

Traceability on the farm involves a solid plan to ensure that if something goes wrong with your commodity, you have the ability to quickly trace that product back one step to the field or growing area where it was harvested and one step forward to the buyer who has purchased it.


Why is this so important?

Time is of the essence in the event of a food recall. We want to prevent foodborne illness; the quicker we get the product in question off the shelves and out of the hands of the consumer, the greater chance we have to prevent someone from getting sick—or worse. It seems that every time we see a food safety headline, it mentions yet another foodborne outbreak. The likely suspects are quite often leafy greens, fresh herbs, fruit, and most recently, onions, which touched every variety. The threat is real. The importance is significant and many farms are not prepared.


How does it work?

  1. Designate an individual or individuals who will be responsible for the farm’s traceability program.
  2. Develop a system where each marketable unit of product that you harvest and pack from your farm is assigned a lot number so you can step back.
  3. Set up an invoicing system that supplies your farm with key information needed to step forward.
  4. Create logs that show organized documentation of how much of your product was harvested, distributed, and who received your product.

Designated Individual – someone who can quickly and confidently assume responsibility in the event of a recall

Marketable Unit – Bin, Box, Pallet, Clamshell, Bag, Crate, or Basket

Lot Number – Numbers and letters that represent the commodity, harvest date, and the field or area it was grown in.

Crop type, harvest date, and field all point to the lot number

Invoice Key Info – Buyer’s name and address, shipping date, commodity, quantity, lot number, and a signature of receipt

Production Logs

Commodity Harvest Date Field Lot # Quantity Buyer
Cucumbers 11-02-20 A CUC-110220-A 5 Boxes Food Store


The FDA recently announced that there will be a focus over the next decade to bring farm-to-table traceability into our food supply chain as part of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Initiative. Will you be ready?



If you’re interested in learning more, contact Kim at [email protected].