Over the past few years, traceability systems used to identify animals, monitor their movements and trace animal products have evolved considerably. It has become crucial to harmonise approved systems that may serve to enhance coherence between trading partners, so as to provide better guarantees and to facilitate international trade in animals and animal products.

Recent events in Europe, such as the bovine spongiform encephalopathy or foot and mouth disease crises, caused major disruptions to trade and emphasised the need to improve traceability techniques for live animals and animal products, especially in the framework of international trade. Within the European Union, such improvements have become legal requirements. However, few studies have been devoted to methods and technologies used throughout the world at each stage in the food production chain, or to their diversity.

This issue of the OIE Scientific and Technical Review aims at remedying this gap in the literature and is designed to contribute to the development of harmonised procedures for the traceability of animals and animal products. The authors examine traceability requirements for animal health, public health, international trade and certification. This issue contains an historical background, as well as a description of methodologies and new technologies used to facilitate traceability, in particular, recent progress in electronics, biology and genetics. Traceability systems currently in use for each of the principal domestic animal species are described in detail, as are monitoring and tracing techniques for animal products. Finally, this issue contains several case studies and provides a description of an advanced computerised tracing and traceability system for the cattle industry.

This issue of the OIE Review will undoubtedly constitute a reference for all those responsible for the identification and traceability of animals and animal products, and will be of particular assistance in the task of providing greater safety for both animal and public health.