Which Foods are Most Impacted by Traceability?

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Riskiest Fresh Foods on the Food Traceability List

Every item on the Food Traceability List is there for a reason. The FDA created the FTL using a sophisticated risk-ranking model. Every category—and the many that will eventually be added—represents an area on which to focus food safety efforts.

Food safety is already more important than ever to consumers and industry stakeholders alike. Taking a more nuanced look at the list may bring vulnerabilities to light that amplify that importance. Putting a comprehensive traceability system in place now, even in advance of FDA mandates taking effect, can help companies prepare for the unforeseen while providing additional benefits like shorter recalls and streamlined sustainability efforts.

The 16 categories on the FTL all fall under the umbrella of fresh foods. Despite the similarities they share, some will pose a greater risk because of their connection to a retailer’s plans.

If a recall occurs in an area a company is more heavily invested in, the negative impact—to finances, reputation, efficiency and so on—will be that much greater. Expansion plans could be halted. Product launches could fall flat.

ReposiTrak’s traceability network can lessen the negative impact by allowing users to more quickly identify the source of a recall and respond accordingly. It can also help companies gain better control over their supply chain.

Implement full-scale traceability now, and when issues arise in the highly impacted areas below, you’ll be ready.


Nut Butters

One need not look far to see the negative impact a nut butter recall can have. The recent peanut butter recall was widespread in scope and cost. With peanut butter arguably being a staple—or at least a food that’s heavily consumed by all ages—the risk of foodborne illness is immense. Peanut butter, as well as other nut butters, are ingredients in countless other products too. These items also had to be pulled from shelves to prevent illness.

Empty shelves are only the most visible effect. After health concerns are alleviated, damage to a company’s reputation can continue. Recalls in such categories immediately become a top story. And there is such a thing as bad publicity. What’s more, peanut butter brand loyalty is high. In the eyes of many consumers, there is no suitable replacement…until there has to be.



From a cost standpoint, recalls of seafood products are among the more frightening to companies and consumers. Many items in these categories are shipped long distances. Keeping them fresh throughout their supply chain journey requires greater effort. Perhaps most notably, when a recall occurs and seafood has to be discarded, the sunk cost is significant. Sure, the health risk associated with recalled produce is nothing to scoff at, but disposing of premium-quality fish that’s only available seasonally—compared to lettuce, for example—is a far heavier hit to the bottom line for retailers and families. Even with refunds available, consumers still pay the cost of time devoted to discarding products and shopping for replacements. Their trust is diminished too.



Fresh fruits and vegetables pose a frightening dilemma. Their freshness is their most salient quality. Unlike nut butters, for example, fresh produce has a fleetingly short shelf life. By their very nature, the fruits and veggies consumers carefully pick from the produce section are meant to be eaten shortly after purchase for peak flavor. When there’s a recall, it may already be too late to prevent the consumer from eating. Being able to react in an instant to recalls in this category is an ability every company along the supply chain would love to have.


Cheeses, Other Than Hard Cheeses

Similar to seafood, many kinds of cheese are sourced from long distances, often overseas. The list of cheeses given as examples on the FTL reads like a delicious world tour itinerary: brie, feta, mozzarella, queso fresco. They’re also oftentimes high-priced, again meaning a financial toll is possible on both sides of the cash register.


Ready-to-Eat Deli Salads

In the recent Supermarket News report “Grocery Retailer Expectations for 2022,” 48-percent of respondents indicated plans to increase their prepared foods offerings, and 45-percent said they planned to revamp their prepared foods menu by offering more prepackaged offerings. All things being equal, the more options a retailer has in this area, the more chances there are for a foodborne illness outbreak. The fact that these items carry associated prepping and packaging costs means a recall could quickly become more costly than most.


Delivering Freshness and Food Safety

In that same Supermarket New survey, 46-percent of respondents said they plan to launch or grow online ordering and delivery offerings in 2022. No company can confidently pursue such a goal without first focusing on traceability. Although this is unquestionably an issue of food safety, it also highlights traceability’s impact on customer satisfaction. The goal of these new FDA guidelines, after all, is farm-to-table transparency. If the products that arrive on the table do not meet the consumer’s exacting standards of freshness, there’s a problem.

ReposiTrak’s AI-based traceability network offers a simple solution. By capturing data as specific as the expiration date, companies can better plan orders, manage inventory and reduce waste, ensuring that the freshest, and safest, products are on hand to be picked by the team members doing the shopping.


Be Ready for Anything with Better Traceability

The product categories discussed above offer a far-from-comprehensive view. As mentioned, all FTL categories are important. Unflinching food safety is a requirement at all times, in all areas. Looking for underlying ways in which any category could be more problematic than it appears is a necessary exercise in preparation that all companies should undertake.

For the potential problems that are revealed, there’s also a necessary solution: end-to-end traceability.

It’s a practice that’s about far more than FDA compliance. It’s a way to prepare now for the unexpected.

We take processes apart, rethink, rebuild, and deliver them back working smarter than ever before.