Food Traceability Methodology – Track by Lot or By Carton?

Recently there has been a lot of attention being paid to Food Traceability.  There’s the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), which “requires” lot traceability for fresh produce by the first of 2013.   The FDA has been auditing fresh fish processors to assure lots can be traced.  It just makes sense to be able to recall any lot that has caused illness.  But from the perspective of the companies in the food supply chain, the solution can seem to be daunting and expensive.

There are two methods of maintaining traceability:  (1) track the lots as they move through the supply chain; (2) track lots within cartons as the cartons move through the supply chain.   The more common method is #1, but the most cost-effective method is #2.

If a simple lot tracking method is used, as lots are commingled, all the included lots are considered contaminated in the case of a recall.  For example:

Lot B is Commingled with a portion of Lots A&C (see diagram).  Because there is no way in a straight-forward lot tracking scheme to differentiate which portions of Lots A&C have been commingled, if Lot B is recalled, so are Lots A&C in their entirety.  This can get expensive.

A better method is by using a carton tracking scheme.  The software accumulates carton data, defining which cartons contain which Lots.  Then when Lot B is contaminated, only cartons B, A/B and B/C are recalled.  This tracking method (re-boxing lots by carton) would also pertain to any recalled ingredients in processed foods.

To learn more about software for food production management and traceability, go to:  http://www.a-barcode.com/simba/

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