Total Food Transparency and Food Traceability
Knowing what’s in your food and how it was made empowers you to make educated decisions about what you eat. However, not all food brands include clear labeling on their packaging or transparent information about their business practices.
At The Oven Door, we believe food labeling matters. Transparency helps you find foods that support your lifestyle and avoid the foods that don’t.
All products on our site include clear labeling for claims like gluten-free, USDA organic, and glyphosate-free. But, when it comes to total food transparency, One Degree Organic Foods leads the way in the organic food industry.
One Degree allows you to meet every farmer behind the ingredients with a QR code. Simply scan it with your phone or look it up on the One Degree Organic Foods website to trace your food back to the source. This is rooted in the brand’s core belief in the connection between healthy soil, healthy crops, and healthy people.
In this article, you’ll learn what food transparency is and why total food transparency can’t be achieved without traceability. Here are quick links to the topics we will cover:
- Food Transparency vs. Traceability
- Why Food Traceability is Important
- Making Supply Chains and Sourcing Traceable
- How to Support Food Traceability and Transparency
Food Transparency vs. Traceability
Food traceability and food transparency are not interchangeable terms, but both are vital when it comes to food safety and giving you the power of choice.
Food transparency allows you to understand how your food was made or grown and where it comes from. For example, product labeling and programs like Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA Organic are important aspects of food transparency.
Few brands, however, truly tell you where your food comes from and how it got to your kitchen table. This is where food traceability comes in.
Food traceability refers to tracking and tracing a food product and all its ingredients through the supply chain. Traceability is key to total food transparency.
Currently, the FDA has regulations in place that require the food industry to maintain records of “one step forward to where food has gone and one step back to its immediate previous source.”1 These regulations are in place to help protect consumer health, reduce contamination, and respond to outbreaks, such as foodborne illness.
While the FDA has released a blueprint for improving food safety and traceability, their regulations still only provide a small window into the food supply chain for consumers.
Why Food Traceability is Important
Many of the discussions around food traceability are in relation to food safety and consumer health. While this is vital in today’s food supply chain, it’s not the only reason food traceability matters.
Traceability and total food transparency are also about building trust and personal connections.
In today’s world, food supply chains are complex global operations. We no longer have personal connections with farmers and food is effectively commoditized.
In the words of Stan Smith, co-founder of One Degree Organic Foods: “Think about all the brands you know, and how they get all the recognition, but where our food really comes from is the farmers. And yet they don’t get that much recognition—but they’re the ones we’re trusting to be investing back into the soil, to be taking care of things, to be keeping the toxins out.”
And food brands should be taking notes. Research conducted by The Center for Food Integrity shows that 65% of people want to know more about how food is produced.2
Traceability systems give us a chance to meet the farmers behind our food, so we know exactly where our food is coming from and how it was grown.
Making Supply Chains and Sourcing Traceable
Food traceability systems vary in complexity and scope. Blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and sensor technologies can all help improve tracking and tracing.
But most traceability solutions are designed to help companies meet regulatory requirements.3 Not to guide consumers.
While some brands might include information about their supply chain and sourcing on their websites, it’s rare to find this information on packaging or readily available elsewhere. And let’s face it—most packaging doesn’t have room to tell you about all the incredible farmers who made your food possible.
One Degree Organics tackled this problem with one simple piece of technology: QR codes.
By including a QR code on every package, One Degree makes it easy to connect to their website and meet the farmers behind the organic ingredients they use. They personally travel to meet every single farmer and producer in order to share their stories with consumers.
This level of traceability creates a unique connection and is a radical approach to total food transparency.
How to Support Food Traceability and Transparency
Whether you’ve been reading ingredients labels for years or are learning about food transparency for the first time, it’s important to understand that your voice matters. As a consumer, what you spend your money on influences the market.
By supporting brands that offer clear labeling and transparent business practices, you’re voting for more transparency in the market. Think about it. As interest in organic foods has increased over the years, more options have become available (not to mention more affordable). The same could be said for gluten-free options.
In other words, the easiest way to support food traceability and transparency is to support brands that are leading the charge.
You can also support policy changes that increase food transparency, research brands before you buy, and even ask companies about their supply chains. Those small actions have an impact, after all.
Most importantly, keep learning about your food and how it’s made so you can make informed decisions about what you eat.
Consumer-facing traceability allows for total food transparency, and it’s a radical concept in today’s food industry. Even with FDA regulations for traceability, most businesses only check the boxes to make sure they meet requirements rather than allow their customers to peek behind the curtains.
We hope this article inspires you to learn more about where your food comes from. For a taste of what it’s like to have a personal connection with the people and communities behind your food, meet the One Degree Food farmers and try some crowd favorites:
1. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2020, September 21). Tracking and Tracing of Food. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/new-era-smarter-food-safety/tracking-and-tracing-food
2. Mires, S. (2019, March 13). We love farmers and our research shows consumers do, too. The Center for Food Integrity. https://foodintegrity.org/blog/2019/03/06/we-love-farmers-and-our-research-shows-consumers-do-too/
3. Ops, A. (2020, April 28). An Intro to Food Traceability Tools. The Original Visitor Management System. https://thereceptionist.com/blog/food-and-beverage-manufacturers-an-introduction-to-food-traceability/