It seems relatively simple: All of the food we eat originates on the “farm” as produce or animal, then flows downstream through a watercourse of channels to arrive on the consumer’s plate. Unfortunately the food supply chain is not quite that simple, nor is it always a forward flow. In fact, it can be argued that the supply chain is actually driven backward, with the demands and expectations of the consumer creating ripples that impact each link of the chain – from retail (grocery, restaurant, or farmers’ market) back through distribution, manufacturing, and packing/co-packing, to the farm. And when a customer complaint or positive test result necessitates tracing back to the source and forward for recall and communication, the unique nuances and challenges, the stressors and strains, of traceability at each link – and the potential results of breaks in the chain – are found to create a rather complex torrent of channels that defy the perceptively easy flow of “downstream.” Thus, while the flow of the food supply system is often referred to as upstream and downstream, seeing it as a series of links in a chain is, in fact, a better representation: each link is a separate entity but each must seamlessly interconnect with the link to each of its sides for the system to be successful as a whole. This chapter follows that chain (from the consumer backward) to discuss each link and linkage, and the nuances and challenges that are created by the riptides of back-flowing expectations and forward-flowing product/ingredient identification.

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