Established in 2004, Can-Trace is a collaborative and open initiative committed to the development of traceability standards for all food products sold in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Recent animal health and food-borne illness scares in all parts of the globe are creating a demand for source verification, food safety and supply chain identification of food products. While most governments have established processes and systems to ensure food quality and safety (i.e. HACCP), it has been human error, in part, that has created the spread of diseases and illnesses, which in turns has created the need for an established product traceability standard for the food industry.
  • Given the pressing nature of many of the drivers (both domestic and international regulations) of product traceability, the Canadian supply chain is required to implement traceability to answer these various regulations.
  • Traceability is the ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration (ISO 9001:2000).
  • Tracking is the capability to follow the path of a specified unit and/or lot of trade items downstream through the supply chain as it moves between trading partners. Trade items are tracked routinely for availability, inventory management and logistical purposes. In the context of the Can-Trace Food Traceability Data Standard version 1.0, the focus is on tracking items from the point of origin to the point of use.
  • Tracing is the capability to identify the origin of a particular unit located within the supply chain by reference to the records held upstream in the supply chain. Units are traced for purposes such as recall and complaints.
  • The mission of Can-Trace is to define and develop voluntary minimum requirements for national whole-chain tracking and tracing standards, utilizing the EAN.UCC global system where applicable within the supply chain.
  • Can-Trace is a voluntary industry-led initiative that fosters open dialogue within the supply chain ensuring that the necessary framework for Canadian traceability is designed for implementation.
  • Can-Trace’s minimum requirements must leverage existing data capture and management solutions when creating a traceability solution. Some Canadian primary producer food manufacturers, processors, distributors and retailers already have significant investment in product identification schemas and IT systems. Any identified solutions will leverage these investments to control cost and speed implementation.
  • In 2003 federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture agreed on a landmark agreement, entitled the Agriculture Policy Agreement (APF). They agreed to work together on 5 objectives to 2008:
    • Food Safety and Food Quality
    • Environment
    • Science and Innovation
    • Renewal
    • Business Risk Management
  • To support and move quickly forward with the APF there was a need for a unique, national, multi-commodity standards-based traceability solution.
  • Can-Trace was launched in July 2003, with the assistance of leading national trade associations. Shortly thereafter the Can-Trace Steering Committee was created, comprised of representatives from these leading national trade associations. GS1 Canada acts as the secretariat and more than 20 national trade associations, several provincial governments and the federal government are active Steering Committee members.
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is funding Can-Trace from the Canadian Food and Safety Quality Program (CFSQP). The program works to increase long-term growth, employment and competitiveness within Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as part of their commitment to provide information, research and technology, and policies and programs to ensure the continued security of the food system and health of the environment and to promote innovation for growth.
  • Major Canadian food supply chain stakeholders are involved in Can-Trace, including industry, government, standards organizations and consumers. In addition, Can-Trace is directed by a Steering Committee composed of more than 20 national trade associations and government observers.
  • The implementation of the Can-Trace standard is voluntary. It is up to the different commodities as well as the players in the supply chain to choose to implement the standard in their business processes. Some sectors however, abide by provincial and international regulations (i.e Quebec’s requirements for beef in 2005, the bio-terrorism act and EU regulations) and will therefore be required to implement traceability if they wish to retain their marketshare and comply with the requlation environment.
  • Initially, Can-Trace focused on four key sectors, beef, pork, seafood, and fruits and vegetables to develop the minimum data requirements for produce, beef and pork are being pilot tested within their supply chains to ensure their effectiveness to deliver traceability. In the longer term, Can-Trace Working Groups will define the minimum data requirements for other commodities and multiple ingredient products.
  • The standard refers to the flow and the nature of the information that should be transferred throughout the supply chain. The systems refer to the technologies or methods used to carry, transfer and archive the information.
  • The current focus of Working Groups is on single ingredient products. The long-term objective is to develop minimum data requirements for all commodities and multi-ingredient products produced and sold in Canada.
  • The model is based on a one up/one down (chain of possession) approach to share information with immediate trading partners. Depending on the location in the chain, each stakeholder will collect, keep and share a defined type of information.
  • Can-Trace receives a portion of its funding support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Canadian Food Safety and Quality Program (CFSQP). In addition, federal and provincial governments are observers on the Can-Trace Steering Committee. (See question 4) The initiative was initiated to help meet the objectives of the Agriculture Policy Framework. Federal and provincial government representatives participate in Can-Trace Steering Committee and in the different Working Groups.
  • As the Can-Trace standard is voluntary, the objective is to have the standard available for all commodities. The decision to implement them will be made at the company or sector level, and will depend on the risk associated with the commodities, the market pressure, and the international or internal regulations.
  • Can-Trace Working Groups will develop implementation guidelines on a sectorial basis to assist companies.
  • One of the requirements from industry was that the standards created for food product traceability in Canada must be internationally compatible, whole chain in scope, capable of accommodating multiple commodities and flexible enough to enable integration and leveraging of other systems. The EAN.UCC system together with ISO formed the foundation for Can-Trace standards. These standards meet the identified requirements and are widely adopted in many countries for traceability and product identification.
  • GS1 Canada is the secretariat of the initiative and provides standards and technical expertise.



Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (logo)


Can-Trace is funded in part under the Agricultural Policy Framework - a federal - provincial - territorial initiative managed by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada


Need Help?