Food safety is a major concern in the global market. The end consumer wants to know the source of that particular food they are about to take into their body. GS1 standards for fresh foods traceability help to ensure the safety and transparency of the supply chain from farm to fork.

Fresh Foods Traceability

Fresh foods traceability is the ability to track the forward movement and trace back the source/origin of fresh food products throughout the entire supply chain, from production to the end user.

Fresh Foods Traceability using GS1 standards involve the use of unique identification numbers such as GLNs, GTINs, SSCC, GRAI among others and data exchange protocols to track and trace products from their origin (such as farms, lake) through processing, distribution, and ultimately to the end consumer. The goal is to enhance transparency, accountability, improve efficiency along the entire supply chain and enable quick and accurate responses in the event of product recalls or food safety issues. This gives the consumer confidence that whatever they take into their body is safe.

Fresh Foods Sub sectors

You can establish a comprehensive GS1 Fresh Foods Traceability system, enhance transparency, accountability, and the overall safety of fresh food products throughout the supply chain by following these simple steps. (Link)

GS1 Fresh Foods Traceability Steps

You can establish a comprehensive GS1 Fresh Foods Traceability system, enhance transparency, accountability, and the overall safety of fresh food products throughout the supply chain by following these simple steps. (Link)

  1. GS1 Company Prefix: Obtain a GS1 company prefix for your company. It will be unique to your organization. This unique identifier will be used to create Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs) for your fresh food products.
  2. Create GTINs: Using the assigned company prefix, generate GTINs for your different products. GTINs help to uniquely identify each product and are crucial for traceability.
  3. Generate Barcode/s: Generate barcode images using the GTINs generated. Common barcode formats for fresh foods include GS1-128 or GS1 Data Matrix. Ensure that the barcode includes key information such as the GTIN, batch/lot number, and expiration date.
  4. Use Batch/Lot Numbers: Assign unique batch or lot numbers to batches of fresh produce. This helps in tracking and tracing specific groups of products in case of recalls or quality issues.
  5. Capture Data at the Source: Implement systems to capture relevant data at the source, such as during planting, growing, harvesting, or processing. This data may include details like planting date, farm inputs used, all farm activities, harvest date, location, packaging date, and any certifications.
  6. Global Location Numbers (GLNs): Assign Global Location Numbers (GLNs) to farms, processing facilities, distribution centers, and any other relevant locations involved in the fresh food supply chain. The GLNs assigned are unique to each particular location.
  7. Implement Data Exchange Standards: Adhere to GS1 data exchange standards for sharing traceability information with trading partners. This facilitates interoperability and smooth communication across the supply chain.
  8. Utilize a common Data Sharing Network: Join a global data sharing network to synchronize product information with trading partners in real-time. This ensures that everyone in the supply chain has access to accurate and up-to-date data.
  9. Monitor Quality and Temperature: Implement systems for monitoring and recording the quality and temperature of fresh food products during transportation and storage. This information contributes to overall traceability and helps maintain product integrity.
  10. Implement Traceability Software: You need to invest in a traceability software that supports GS1 standards and integrates with your existing systems. This software should facilitate end-to-end traceability and provide a centralized platform for managing traceability data.
  11. Training and Awareness: All stakeholders involved in the fresh food supply chain must be trained on GS1 standards and the importance of traceability. This includes farmers, processors, distributors, retailers, and logistics providers.
  12. Regular Audits and Compliance Checks: Conduct regular audits to ensure compliance with GS1 Fresh Foods Traceability standards. This includes checking the accuracy of data capture, barcode readability, and overall adherence to traceability processes.

Key GS1 Standards in Use

GS1 has established standards for fresh foods traceability. These standards help in uniquely identifying products, accurately capturing relevant information, and facilitating communication between trading partners.

Implementing GS1 standards helps ensure accurate and efficient traceability of fresh foods throughout the supply chain. By using standardized identifiers, barcodes, and data exchange formats, companies can enhance visibility, reduce errors, and respond more effectively to issues such as recalls or product quality concerns.

Some key GS1 standards for fresh foods traceability include: (Link)

  1. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): GTIN is a unique identifier assigned to a particular product to distinguish it from others. It is commonly used in barcodes and is crucial for traceability.
  2. GS1-128: This is a barcode symbology used to encode GS1 identifiers and other data. GS1-128 is often used for labeling cartons and pallets in the fresh food supply chain.
  3. Global Location Number (GLN): GLN is a unique identifier for physical locations such as farms and processing plants or legal entities. It helps in identifying the parties involved in the supply chain, such as manufacturers, distributors, and retailers.
  4. GS1 Electronic Data Interchange (EDI): EDI standards enable the electronic exchange of business documents, such as purchase orders and invoices between trading partners in a standardized format.
  5. Global Traceability Standard (GTS): GS1 has developed the GTS to provide a standardized approach for traceability. It involves the use of GTINs, GLNs, and other identifiers to link products and locations in the supply chain.
  6. Product Recall Standard: GS1 has guidelines for product recall processes, facilitating efficient and accurate communication during a recall situation.

Benefits of Food Traceability

Food traceability brings about numerous benefits to the industry stakeholders by enhancing safety, transparency, visibility, accountability and efficiency throughout the entire food supply chain. It promotes trust among consumers, supports regulatory compliance, and helps businesses make informed decisions for better quality control and risk management. (Link)

Farmers and Producers

  1. Market Access: Traceability can enhance market access for farmers and producers, especially in regions where traceability is a regulatory requirement or a market expectation. A good example is the EU market. Once you implement GS1 traceability solutions, you are better placed to access this great market with ease.
  2. Quality Control: Farmers can use traceability data to monitor and control the quality of their products, making improvements in production processes to meet consumer demands.
  3. Efficiency and Cost Reduction: GS1 Traceability systems can help optimize supply chain processes, reducing waste, improving efficiency, and lowering operational costs.


  1. Safety Assurance: GS1 Traceability solution allows consumers to know the journey behind their food in terms of origin/source, assuring them that the products they purchase are safe and comply with quality standards.
  2. Transparency: GS1 traceability solution provides information about the journey of food from farm to plate which brings about transparency in the food supply chain, which consumers highly appreciate.
  3. Product Information: GS1 traceability system provides consumers with detailed information about the production methods, farm inputs used, nutritional content, and sustainability practices associated with the food they buy.

Suppliers and Distributors

  1. Risk Management: GS1 traceability solution helps suppliers and distributors manage risks associated with product quality and safety, allowing for quick identification and isolation of batches with issues.
  2. Efficient Supply Chain: Using traceability data, suppliers and distributors can streamline processes, reduce waste, improve overall efficiency, and optimize their supply chains.


  1. Inventory Management: GS1 traceability solutions help in better inventory management, enabling retailers to optimize stock levels and reduce waste due to expiration or spoilage.
  2. Recall Management: In the event of a product recall, GS1 traceability systems allow retailers to swiftly identify and remove affected products, minimizing the impact on consumers and protecting the brand's reputation.
  3. Supply Chain Optimization: Retailers can use traceability data to optimize their supply chains, improving logistics, reducing lead times, and enhancing overall efficiency.

Food Processors and Manufacturers

  1. Quality Assurance: GS1 food traceability supports quality assurance efforts, enabling processors and manufacturers to maintain high standards and comply with regulations.
  2. Supply Chain Visibility: Visibility into the supply chain helps food processors and manufacturers make informed decisions, improve forecasting, and enhance overall supply chain visibility.

Regulatory Authorities

  1. Compliance Monitoring: GS1 traceability systems assist regulatory authorities in monitoring and enforcing compliance with food safety and quality regulations.
  2. Rapid Response to Incidents: In the event where food safety incidents or outbreaks happen, GS1 traceability enables regulatory authorities to quickly trace and isolate contaminated products, protecting public health.

Insurance Companies

  1. Risk Assessment: Traceability data can be used by insurance companies for risk assessment, helping them understand and mitigate potential risks associated with the food supply chain.

SHAMBA ikoNET ( Farmers’ Digital Link to the Market.)

SHAMBA ikoNET is a web-based platform that provides seamless visibility of products/commodities, as they move from a farmer to a consumer/buyer through a logistic partner.

The platform brings together

  1. 1.Farmers through a regional consolidator
  2. 2.Logistic partner/distributor
  3. 3. Consumer/buyer
  4. 4. On the payment side, it brings on-board M-Pesa and PayPal for real-time and seamless transactions.
  5. 5. On the system administration side, GS1 Kenya provides behind-the-scenes technical support to ensure smooth operations of the system.

(a) Objective

The main objective is to adopt the GS1 Standards for food traceability to address the challenges of supply chain invisibility and operational inefficiencies. There is an increased demand from consumers to know about the safety of what they eat, especially for fresh produce. Consumers want to understand the journey behind the fruits and vegetables, to know whether they are safe for consumption and cultivated in an ethical way. On the other hand, small-scale farmers have not been in a position to easily access the market and at the same time get value for their farm produce.

(b) GS1 Standards in Use

SHAMBA ikoNET is a traceability solution that provides the very key foundation needed for quality fresh food supply based upon proprietary identification methods among small-scale farmers. The platform is being run on GS1 standards that support end-to-end visibility from source to consumer, including the use of:

  1. Global Location Number (GLN): A globally unique number used to access master data about a location.
  2. Global Trade Item Number (GTIN): Used to uniquely identify product’s various parameters such as color codes, net weights, etc.
  3. Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC): Used for any logistic units that require individual identification, such as couriered parcels.
  4. Data Matrix/QR codes: Used to capture all data collected from the farm level and throughout the supply chain.

(c) Key Features

  1. Farmer’s Portal: A platform where all the basic information relating to farmers are captured, including farm location and produce.
  2. Logistics’ Portal: Displays several shipping companies registered in the system.
  3. Consumer’s/Buyer’s Portal: Displays the produce from different farms and allows a buyer to order goods online.

(d) Benefits of Using SHAMBA ikoNET

  1. Farmers to get value for their farm produce. The system will curb all the intermediary middlemen who are involved in fresh produce supply chain and hence linking farmers directly to online buyers.
  2. Direct linkage among buyers, logistic partners, and consolidators. This will ease the delivery processes as the transporter will be in a position to know when exactly to pick the commodities and where to deliver them.
  3. Real-time payment to all parties involved within the Shamba Connect system. The platform is programmed to disburse payments on a real-time module once a buyer remits payment for commodities. Payments are portioned and channeled to all stakeholders seamlessly.