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FDA’s 2026 Food Traceability Initiative

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The FDA’s release of the Food Traceability Final Rule will require many businesses in the foodservice industry to make extensive changes to what they track and the information their tracking must show. Here’s what you need to know in order to comply with the initiative.

What Is the Food Traceability Initiative?

Food traceability allows the movement of food and the ingredients it contains to be tracked at all points in the food chain.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is a law which outlines programs and rules to help all entities in the food chain to take action to prevent foodborne illness.

What Are the FDA Food Traceability Requirements?

The Food Traceability Rule requires records of origin for each of the items on the food traceability list, which include cheeses, seafood products, and fresh vegetables.

FDA food traceability requires certain entities to maintain records which include key data elements (KDEs) related to critical tracking events (CTEs).

Detailed tracking is now required, and includes data related to the origin of products, date, and location of product acceptance; source information for traceability lot code; and information about related reference documents.

The rule would also require companies to include legible paper or electronic records that are able to be quickly placed into spreadsheets and able to be submitted to the FDA within 24 hours of their request.

What Is the Reason Behind the Food Traceability Initiative?

The main reason behind the initiative is to reduce the high number of foodborne illnesses and deaths caused by contaminated foods.

Who Is Affected?

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The Food Traceability Rule affects the following entities:

Growers – those who grow any of the foods on the traceability list. A lot code would be created by growers and be linked to their location.

Producers – those who produce food using ingredients on the food traceability list, such as producers of peanut butter.

Shippers – Entities tasked with transporting food between locations.

Receivers – Companies or individuals (other than consumers) who receive food after it’s been transported.

Packagers – Those responsible for changing food labels or package designs.

FDA food traceability applies to domestic establishments, as well as those located in foreign countries which produce food for consumption in the United States.

Who Is Exempt?

Some entities are either fully or partially exempt from the initiative. These include:

  • Foods processed using certain methods
  • Direct farm-to-consumer operations
  • Small retail food establishments
  • Some small food producers

When Does the Law Go into Effect?

The date for all non-exempt entities to comply with the Food Traceability Initiative is January 20, 2026. This date will allow information to be shared between all entities, and all individuals to come into compliance on the same date.

What Is the Intention Behind the Food Traceability Initiative?

The intention behind the initiative is threefold. It will enable the FDA to notify the public about food recalls sooner, allow food that’s potentially contaminated to be removed more quickly from the market, and identify the origins and causes of contamination so that it doesn’t occur again.

Cutting-Edge Technology for All Your Food Traceability Compliance Needs

The FDA Food Traceability Final Rule is landmark legislation that will vastly improve the safety of food and reduce foodborne illness.

The requirement to produce records of all foods and ingredients within 24 hours of their request can pose significant challenges to those keeping paper records.

ComplianceMate’s food safety compliance system uses temperature and humidity sensors to record and timestamp readings continuously, generating instant alerts with fluctuations. All recorded data is sent to a central database for effortless viewing and extraction.

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