Food manufacturers and distributors are more than familiar with the steps and precautions they need to take in order to comply with global food safety initiatives like FSMA, GFSI and SQF. What they may not be aware of is how beneficial software can be in aiding initiatives around lot traceability, safety audits and recall readiness. This guide highlights the functionality and features food companies need from their business software to aid in their farm to fork traceability and food safety efforts.
This guide covers:
In this day and age of global product recall and tightening compliance regulation from both retail customers and government agencies, lot tracking is more important than ever. Every segment of the food manufacturing industry needs to ensure that their traceability efforts are up to the highest standard in order to do business with global retail brands. Some of the safety agencies include:
Knowing the individual agencies and councils and their specific requirements is the first step you need to take when looking at what is required while you scale your business and start working with larger retail customers.
Many food manufacturing companies already have some form of product tracing system and/or software in place. However, not all systems are created equal. Knowing how important traceability functionality is to running your facility, it’s important to consider the following:
Along with the above, the main functionalities that you need to be searching for are accurate product traceability and product recall. As your business scales and you begin to work with larger retailers, it’s imperative that you’re able to prove you can execute an accurate and timely product recall.
The old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is certainly applicable to product traceability. In fact, the FDA, lacking the resources to inspect the millions of shipments of food into the U.S. each year, has shifted its emphasis from inspect to prevention.
A holistic view of food safety will incorporate prevention-and-proof as well as the traditional record-and-response approach to lot tracking and recall. The prevention-and-proof approach features a number of key focal points, including:
The various types of product tracking can be thought of in terms of layers. With production process being a single layer stacked on top of the previous process, you’re able to peel back each level of production to see where an error has been made. It also gives you the ability to look ahead and see where that material has gone to next. Within JustFood’s traceability software, you have the ability to track an item at several levels of detail:
The ability to easily see the entire history of the item/lot/serial number within a single interface is a critical component of your food traceability software. Why? Here are a few instances:
It’s highly recommended to assign the level of lot numbering to the items you purchased as raw materials, even if the vendor doesn’t provide one to you. This is important because if a vendor tells you there’s an issue with the product you received from them last week, without that lot traceability you would have to guess which product it was. By assigning lot numbering to materials you’re able to review all the materials in the bad shipment and see other shipments that have those same materials.
Let’s say you are doing tracking at your facility, but the lot numbers are only changed at the start of each workday. You have three product shifts a day for that item. If you have to do a recall, you’ll attempt to trace your items back by lot number, which will require you to have to look at an entire day’s worth of inventory. However, if the lot number was changed at the start of each shift, if a recall happens, you can limit the trace of the exact shift that produced the item. That may also mean you have to recall less product.
If you are manufacturing food using ingredients or products that contain allergens, your lot tracking is even more important. Additional granularity around on the items that those raw materials come in contact with is required so that you know which products may contain traces of allergens and which do not.
If your products and/or ingredients are coming from other countries, it is important that you are able to track the country of origin. From when the raw materials enter your facility all the way through to finished goods. Visibility into international good is a hot topic these days, given the publicity around some bad materials coming from various countries. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in 2011, requires exporters and importers of food in the U.S. to demonstrate proof of certified compliance with the new laws. Foreign suppliers will have to show proof of meeting U.S. standards for food production and distribution safety in order to be allowed to sell food in the U.S.
Even if your company can meet the 24 hour minimum requirement set by the federal U.S. government to enact a product recall, many customers are starting to expect even faster results. What if you could get your product recall process down to 60 seconds? JustFood functionality lets you do bi-directional product recalls, using lot tracing data from the material level and up. Our system also integrates with Microsoft Word and Outlook, filling in the blanks of an official letters and alerts to your customers within a minute, ensuring you get the word out as quickly as possible.
FSMA includes a major section on tracing. The FDA is now mandated to conduct product recalls, which can take place if:
The use of QR codes makes it easier for food companies to follow produce traceability guidelines. For produce specifically, a QR code scan can display all the product data across its supply chain. Example: a Q$ code on the side of a case of apples in your warehouse can be scanned by a device like a smartphone/tablet, which takes the user to a web page with a lot number, date of production, etc. QR codes can carry a lot more information than the traditional bar code and scanner gun. For JustFood users, there is an add-in that allows your ERP system to create and use QR codes. A quick update to your implementation enables QR codes to be placed almost anywhere in the Microsoft Dynamics environment – reports, forms, etc.
Many food manufacturers believe product traceability is more than simply a strictly enforced requirement, it is the right thing to do.
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