The FDA’s new food traceability rule, which requires full compliance by January 20, 2026, has prompted many industry stakeholders to develop plans for transforming their technology stacks and supply chains. While some companies still rely on outdated methods to track their products, tech-enabled solutions are gaining popularity.
The rule, known as the FSMA Final Rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods, establishes traceability recordkeeping requirements for persons involved in the manufacturing, processing, packing, or holding of certain perishable foods. These foods, listed on the FDA’s Food Traceability List, include soft cheeses, shell eggs, nut butter, cucumbers, fresh herbs, leafy greens, melons, peppers, sprouts, tomatoes, tropical tree fruits, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables, finfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and ready-to-eat deli salads.
The goal of the rule is to modernize food traceability and create standards that enable the entire food system to communicate in a universal language. This will facilitate faster identification and removal of potentially contaminated food from the market. Manufacturers will be required to maintain records containing Key Data Elements (KDEs) associated with specific Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and provide this information to the FDA within 24 hours.
Some of the CTEs include harvesting, cooling, initial packing, first land-based receiver, shipping, receiving, and transformation. Various KDEs, such as location description, date of harvesting, traceability lot codes, and food product descriptions, will be recorded to establish an item’s chain of custody and identify the source of any problems.
Besides compliance with the FDA, implementing this type of traceability program can also help combat food fraud, reduce regulatory compliance costs, ensure freshness, and minimize food waste. Increased transparency leads to better accountability and builds consumer trust.
To assist manufacturers and producers in achieving compliance, the FDA has granted several years’ time. One emerging solution is ambient IoT (Internet of Things), which enables continuous cloud communication between products and producers. A company called Wiliot has developed IoT Pixels, small compute devices that are battery-free and powered by radio waves. These devices provide real-time information about a product’s location, attributes, and history, helping to track its journey through the supply chain.
Implementing such a visibility platform can offer benefits beyond compliance, including improved accuracy, efficiency in store operations, waste management, and collaboration within the supply chain. By embracing technology and adopting transparent traceability practices, companies can not only meet regulatory requirements but also gain a competitive edge and enhance overall food safety.