The study has found that there is a wide variation in how food sources are traced and the systems used to trace them. Several systems for tracking livestock, especially beef, are well advanced and major retailers have also put in systems to trace the food they sell. But the survey found that the ability to trace food in the catering sector is not so well developed.
The diverse nature of food processing operations means that each business keeps traceability records in its own way. The methods used range from sophisticated IT to handwritten labels. But the researchers found that the quality and quantity of the information available depends on a number of factors, including the product, the law and what consumers demand.
There is currently no general legal requirement for the establishment of traceability systems in the food chain. However, some degree of traceability is required under a number of separate measures. New EU legislation is now in place to help protect consumers and ensure food safety; this includes new rules for traceability which come into force in 2005.
The Agency is now working with stakeholders to assess its priorities in encouraging effective and robust traceability in the food chain.
The FSA document entitled 'Traceability in the food chain - Preliminary report' can be found at (pdf file):