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How the 2026 Food Traceability Rule Will Affect Restaurant Owners


The FDA’s Food Traceability Rule, released in November of 2022, will come into effect on January 20, 2026. The rule will impact most restaurants and require extensive changes to be made to the way in which foods are tracked and how, and what information must be included in tracking records.

What Is the Food Traceability Rule?

The Food Traceability Rule requires certain foods and ingredients considered to be at higher risk of causing foodborne illness to be traced at each step from their source to the establishment. The rule aims to make it quicker and easier to identify and remove potentially contaminated foods before illness occurs.

Which Restaurants Will Be Affected by the FDA Traceability Rule?

The FDA restaurant regulations will affect all establishments whose sales of food and beverages total $250,000 per year. Restaurants selling more than $250,000 will be subject to different requirements in terms of reporting requirements and types of records that must be kept.

How Will These Traceability Requirements Affect Restaurants?

Professional chef cooking in the kitchen restaurant at the hotel, preparing dinner.

The final rule requires restaurants to follow a new set of tracking rules for food that appears on the Food Traceability List. Each item on this list will require detailed tracking records to be created, kept, and maintained. Foods on the traceability list include:

  • Cheeses
  • Nut butters
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Fish and seafood

Restaurants will need to maintain Key Data Elements (KDEs), which are details about the food products and goods received. Suppliers, who are aware of the rules, will work with restaurant operators to assist with the management of KDEs.

The KDEs will provide important information that can help to identify Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) that have occurred throughout a food product’s journey through the food chain.

Tracking Information Restaurants Will Be Required to Show

The traceability requirements will require information that reveals where food products and ingredients came from, when and where the product was received by the restaurant, and information contained in reference documents and lot code sources.

Along with the above, restaurants will be required to create plans for food traceability. These plans must be electronic and offer a clear description of their procedure for maintaining food records for all of their products (see below).

These traceability plans must be updated as needed to ensure all information is current and compliant. They must also be retained for two years following any update.

If an outbreak of foodborne illness occurs at an establishment, the FDA will require records to be produced within 24 hours of their request. Electronic records and other information will allow restaurants to meet this requirement far more efficiently than if the information was being recorded manually. This will allow the source of outbreaks to be quickly identified and controlled.

Required Food Record Procedure Descriptions

Restaurants will have to ensure detailed descriptions are created and made available. These include the procedures used for the maintenance of required records, including document and other file formats, and where they are located.

Restaurants must also include descriptions of the procedures used for the identification of foods on the traceability list held or packaged by the establishment

ComplianceMate: Your Partner in Food Traceability

These new FDA guidelines for food safety will help restaurant owners drastically reduce incidences of foodborne illness by requiring detailed records to be kept of certain food products.

ComplianceMate’s powerful suite of components allows continuous collection of important temperature and humidity data, instantly time stamped and stored in a central hub for easy access, examination, and extraction. Request your free demo today.