CALGARY - Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz says a national database for tracing livestock will help improve food safety.

The federal government is spending $7.5 million to develop, implement and operate a centralized service.

Plans are to use information from industry groups, including the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, to build a comprehensive database by 2016.

Ritz, saying food safety is the main goal, points to the mad-cow crisis, the tainted beef recall in Alberta and a more recent outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea in Manitoba.

He says many of Canada's major trading partners such as Korea, Japan and the European Union are looking for reassurances that traceability is in place.

Ritz says having the program will open doors to more international markets.