Implementing seafood traceability techniques is becoming even more paramount, as the industry readies to comply with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Section 204.

Now, certain items — including most seafood products — must have traceability lot codes and related shipment data captured and retained in a record every time the product moves between facilities in the supply chain, said Randy Fields, CEO of ReposiTrak, a retail technology company focused on traceability and compliance.

And the seafood supply chain is particularly challenging for traceability as it involves a global network of tens of thousands of suppliers, many with limited technical capabilities.

In addition to food safety requirements, traceability is necessary because of issues with IUU (illegal, unregulated, unreported) fishing, said Chip Terry, founder of BlueTrace, a software platform for the seafood industry which provides tagging and other services.

“This article from The New Yorker traced seafood from what are essentially modern day slave ships to U.S. retailers. Being in this type of article is something no one wants,” Terry said.

In addition to meeting the data collection and recordkeeping requirements necessary for FDA traceability compliance, some progressive retailers are attempting to track other key data elements in their seafood supply chains, to support their sustainability and responsible sourcing objectives and to control for food fraud, Fields said.

Retailers can’t think about seafood traceability as separate and distinct from their approach to traceability across all product categories, Fields advised, particularly since some retailers and wholesalers are now moving to track and trace all food items, and not just those required by the FSMA. 

Retailer seafood tracing programs are in their earlier stages of adoption, but those that are out in front are partnering with third party traceability solutions to automate the data collection and maintenance, Fields said.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Seafood Traceability feature and more in the digital edition here.