All food processors, no matter how small, need some sort of procedure in place for traceability. A food traceability procedure will help you manage your inventory and supply chain more efficiently while also assisting with any product recalls. You may also be required to provide information or documentation for compliance reasons that will be easier to obtain if you have a traceability procedure in place.
Developing traceability procedures for food safety can feel like an overwhelming task, but putting these processes and tools into place now will save you time and money in the long run. Here's what you need to know about traceability procedures for food safety and how to develop them.
Developing or upgrading your traceability procedures will provide immediate benefits to your business, including improving your inventory management and ensuring compliance with local, national, and/or global regulations. Additionally, traceability procedures are essential for food safety in the event of contamination or other issues. You can use them to track down the source of contamination, whether it’s an issue with the supplier or a problem within your facility or production line, and easily recall products that have already entered the market.
Robust traceability procedures will also include tools and guidance for communicating with staff, press, and consumers, helping you maintain a positive brand image while you address food safety concerns.
The very first step in developing food traceability procedures is identifying a designated team for overseeing food safety and recall operations. This should be a multidisciplinary team consisting of staff experts from every angle of food safety, including legal, public relations, production, quality assurance, and distribution. Every team member should have specific tasks and processes in place so they can immediately take action if there is a food safety issue.
Your food safety and recall team will be much more effective if you implement a food traceability software solution to help automate the process. These solutions help you:
There are a variety of food traceability systems that are tailored to particular products and industries, but there are certain features you should look for when shopping for a software solution. First, your food traceability software should collect and record all of the information you need to comply with regulations and efficiently perform recalls. Some examples of the data you might need include:
The exact information you need your system to collect will vary depending on your product, the size of your business, and the laws you must comply with.
Your traceability system should also provide real-time tracking of your raw materials and finished product no matter where they are in your supply chain. With this real-time monitoring, you’ll be able to reduce spoilage, lower your carrying costs, and quickly identify issues to avoid recalls. If you do need to conduct a recall, this visibility will enable you to immediately locate and remove contaminated batches.
No matter how automated your production, traceability procedures, and distribution become, your employees will always be both your biggest potential strength and your biggest potential weakness. That’s why training your teams is so critical to the success of both your food traceability procedures and your business as a whole.
In addition to training your food safety team on the specific traceability procedures they’re responsible for, you should conduct staff-wide training on what to do in the event of contamination or a product recall. For some departments, this training will involve assigning and completing tasks to aid in the recall process, but for others, it will require more general guidelines—explaining how to respond to press inquiries or questions from their friends and family, for example.
In terms of communication, you should be clear and decisive about how your organization as a whole will inform customers, authorities, and the public about a product recall. Generally, you should strive to be as honest and transparent as possible while still maintaining a positive brand image. This is why it’s critical to have at least one member of your communications or public relations staff on your food safety team to help you craft the right messaging.
Developing your traceability policies and procedures and implementing a software solution will ultimately require buy-in from your organization’s leadership and management, as well as the key team members responsible for traceability and recalls. This isn’t a process that can be put into place and then ignored until there’s an issue or recall. Many food processors conduct mock recalls once a year so they can see their traceability procedures in action and figure out what needs to be changed or improved.
Though it’s hard work, developing traceability procedures for food safety will provide many financial and logistical benefits to your business and give you the peace of mind of knowing you’re well-prepared to deal with any issues.
C&M Digest provides expert news and analysis from the coding and marking industry. Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly bite-sized summaries of all our stories.