Retraceability was imposed on all European enterprises of the foodstuff sector as an obligation without exception as of 2002 by Regulation 178/2002, which defines the obligations but does not, however, indicate how they should be observed. In Italy, the enterprises with the intention of respecting the obligation of retraceability of production and/or internal retraceability could decide to adhere to the voluntary norms UNI 10939:01 and UNI 11020:02 established by the Italian normative entity (UNI), by January 2008. The desire to adopt voluntary norms on the part of agricultural foodstuff enterprises arises not only out of the need to respond to the obligations of the above mentioned regulation but far more to respond, on one hand, to the customers’ and distributors’ requests, and on the other to create further added value for the finished product. It is to be remembered that these voluntary norms, defined with the consent of all those interested and spontaneously adopted by all the enterprises of the sector, were established with the objective of accommodating the standardisation of the market’s activities and, as a consequence, of promoting commercial exchange.
In July 2007, the Italian norms UNI 11020:02 and UNI 10939:02 were incorporated into norm UNI EN ISO 22005/2008, one of European recognition, proposed as a solution to the necessity of companies to implement an efficient and complete system of retraceability applicable to the food and foodstuff sectors. This system’s standard consists of an open, clear and verifiable methodology offering the possibility of complete inspection, starting with the prime materials and ending with the finished product, from the original sources to consumption. Furthermore, although it does not have the objective of guaranteeing nutritional safety, it does prove to be a valid instrument for following characteristics back to their causes and to offer the possibility to the enterprises within the system to compete with qualitively recognised tools.
Retraceability is not, in and of itself, an objective but rather a tool that is flexible and utilisable by all those having a role in the production processes of agricultural foodstuffs for reaching other objectives, for example, for determining the origin of a product or ingredient, for facilitating verification of specific information regarding it as well as for withdrawing it from the market.
Norm UNI EN ISO 22005/08 establishes the basic principles and requirements for projecting and executing a system of retraceability of foodstuffs and of their process of production. The adoption of this norm allows organizations of the sector to:
- follow the flow of materials (oil, packaging materials, etc.);
- identify the necessary documentation and retraceability of each and every phase of production;
- guarantee the necessary coordination of those involved in the phases and
- allow every part of the production process to be informed about its suppliers and its immediate customers.
The UNI EN ISO 22005/2008 firmly reiterates that the traceability system as such is unable to ensure the hygiene and safety of products but each traceability system should be designed and operated so as to allow specific objectives that the company aims at, for example to:
- be the foundation of nutritional safety and/or of objectives of quality;
- respond to the customers’ requirements;
- determine the history or origin of the product;
- facilitate the withdrawal of the product from the market;
- identify the organisations responsible in the process of realising the product;
- facilitate the verification of specific information about the product;
- communicate relevant information about the stakeholders;
- respond to any regional, national and/or international legal obligation whatsoever and
- develop the efficiency, the productivity and the profitability of the organisation.
A system of retraceability certifiable in the sense of UNI EN ISO 22005:08 must be:
- oriented toward the resulting economic sustainability;
- in agreement with the obligations established through the law and
- coherent with predefined requirements.
The advantages of a system of Traceability
The adoption of a system of voluntary retraceability, either limited to a single enterprise or the entire process of production, permits the fulfillment of legal obligations but its flexible and step-by-step application also represents a tool for tracing the information of greater interest for the enterprise, such as the origin of a product, the parameters of the process of production, the rigorous management of quantities and therefore of the production refuse also proving to be a possible marketing tool.
The application of a voluntary system of production process retraceability permits the isolation and identification of the link that does not comply with the established requirements when also avoiding the involvement of all the enterprises committed to the realisation of the product.
The capacity to reconstruct the history of a product until the point of arriving at the specific prime materials could well be an important marketing tool in B2B (business to business) as well as B2C (business to consumer) communication. There are retraceability systems that propose definitive, interactive ways of reconstructing the history of the product they intent to obtain (Internet sites with a digitalised lot code, access to information totems inside the store, etc).