Food Safety & Traceability - August 2023

15th August 2023

Food Safety & Traceability - August 2023


Welcome to our latest Food Safety Update. We aim to provide you with a snapshot of information on topical and relevant food safety issues and, where, applicable, the links to allow you to take your knowledge further.

We welcome your feedback on this service as well as any questions and comments on the topics included.

This edition discusses activities in the Food Safety and Traceability area over the last year. We examine the increasing attention directed to having effective and efficient Traceability of fresh produce along the supply chain.

Food Residues Survey Programme (FRSP) has Commenced for 2023-24

The FRSP is an annual programme administered by New Zealand Food Safety (NZFS) under the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). It is a monitoring programme involving random sampling, to confirm good agricultural practice through agrichemical residue testing of fresh and minimally processed plant-based foods.

The 2023-2024 sampling and testing survey will test 300 samples from 5 categories (Roots & Tubers, Pomefruit, Small Fruit & Berries, Fruiting Vegetables – Cucurbits, and Cereals & Grains).

All samples are traced back along the supply chain to the domestic grower/overseas exporter and growing location. The samplers may contact suppliers and growers for sample information not available at the collection site.

This programme is the largest trace back programme in the industry, and is a good tool in highlighting the complexity of the various supply chains, both formal and informal. It demonstrates that industry does hold, and can provide, good Traceability information related to specific samples. However, if this was required to happen on scale and in a short-time frame, then there are challenges.

NZFS checks the lab results for compliance against the maximum residues level (MRL) set in relevant standards. If the results of the sample(s) exceed the MRLs or standards, the grower will be notified by NZFS, but if the MRLs comply, no further contact occurs.

More information on the FRSP programme, including past programme results, can be found here, including the sampling plan and past summary reports:

Effective and Efficient Traceability in the New Zealand Fresh Produce Industry

In 2018, United Fresh received a Sustainable Farming Fund grant for a project to help the industry understand how to implement effective Traceability systems. An outcome of the project was the development of a Fresh Produce Traceability Guidelines document, based on the Global Traceability Standard of GS1.

The guidelines include step-by-step instructions on what Traceability data formats (numbers and barcodes) are required for different situations, how to obtain them, and how to use them. These easy-to-follow steps provide a straightforward pathway to implementing a globally recognised Traceability standard system, to be followed by supply chain participants.

Getting every step in the supply chain to use compatible systems and data, in an appropriate format, is critical for ensuring interoperability. Interoperability means all the information management systems used to track products are compatible, and information can be easily transferred and accessed by each participant in the supply chain.

Supply chain participants, especially early in the supply chain such as producers, hold a wealth of valuable and applicable product information. This information is often lost along the journey of the product to its end destination, with only basic classification information being recorded.

Transitioning the whole industry to a system which is based on a globally recognised standard provides great benefits, including cost minimisation, as supply chain partners only need to use one system, and do not need to change labels or data systems to suit other parties. A system that meets the GS1 standards will also be compatible with systems in most other countries, simplifying exports requirements.

More information on the United Fresh Produce Industry Traceability Guidelines can be found here:

Global Food Chain Traceability Future Considerations

Following on from the United Fresh Traceability initiative, here is some of the thinking on Traceability internationally:

Traceability is the ability to track the origin, destination, and every step in-between of a product or ingredient, using record keeping and information transfer at every point in the supply chain. The next step in the process is Tracing, or the ability to follow a product’s movement back to its source. Conversely, Tracking is the ability to follow a product’s movement forward through the supply chain into its final product and destination.

One major Traceability challenge is the ability to reach end consumers when required, e.g., during a product recall due to food safety problems. Once the product is sold, a limited ability exists to contact the person who purchased the product, outside of publicly posted recall notices, and hoping the message will reach the necessary customers. One way around this has been customer loyalty programmes, which can include a clause giving the retailer consent to collect purchasing data and customer contact details, allowing those customers to be notified in the event of a recall.

Another challenge is that customers are also generally not able to access any information about the supply chain pathway of the product, which is made more difficult for fresh produce, which is often sold loose and unpackaged.

There is a global movement towards expanding supply chain transparency, as well as encompassing issues such as sustainable practices, social issues, and qualities or credentials within the product itself.

Aligning with growing requirements of international regulations, as well as consumer demands for increased product credential assurances, such as organic, means food supply chain members must be sure to participate in these emerging Traceability initiatives, or risk being excluded from future opportunities.

United Fresh has been progressing activities in this space, with our traceability guidelines (discussed in the previous section), and in our work with Trust Alliance New Zealand. Trust Alliance New Zealand is currently developing systems for “Digital Wallets” and “Verifiable Credentials”, which comply with global traceability requirements, as well as ongoing work with United Fresh on Traceability data standardisation & management.

Keogh, J. G., Simske, S., Manning, L. (2023, April/May). Global Food Chain Traceability— Reflections on the Past, Present, and Insights into Future Directions. Food Safety Magazine, 29(2), 10.

If you would like to know more on the topics in this newsletter, please contact our Technical Advisory Group by emailing or calling 0800 507 555.