Backward Traceability Tamlin

The Three Common Mistakes Food Processing Managers Make with Backward Traceability

By Linda Bryan
Chief Executive Officer, Tamlin Software

Farm-to-fork traceability isn’t just a food industry buzz phrase. It’s a very real concern for every company in the food industry supply chain—both in terms of backward and forward traceability alike. Without farm-to-fork traceability, it’s impossible to know where harmful products came from or where they eventually end up. Just ask anyone who’s been through a food recall.

But crisis situations aren’t the only reason end-to-end traceability is critical for food companies. The ability to seamlessly trace where a product comes from and where it winds up is one of the best ways (and possibly the very best) to promote and ensure ongoing quality. When everything is completely transparent, anything that doesn’t meet your quality standards is easier to identify, isolate and correct.

That’s why compliance certifications like GFSI and FSMA require complete farm-to-fork traceability—both backward traceability and forward as well. When tainted food is discovered anywhere in the supply chain, the only safe way to protect the public is either to identify where pathogens actually are in real time, or far worse, to pull everything from shelves that might present a potential health threat.

No one wins by pulling everything out of the entire food-supply system—especially when food is perfectly healthy and can literally cost hundreds, thousands (even millions of dollars) to yank from shelves unnecessarily.

To keep a food recall within its proper scope—which is by far the best way to minimize both recall and compliance review problems—is to establish a real-time system for isolating tainted foods. Unfortunately, it’s often easier said than done. But it doesn’t have to be.

This week’s blog discusses three common mistakes food companies make when it comes to backward traceability. Next week, we’ll review frequent errors companies also make when trying to trace what happens after products leave the plant.

Three key steps to seamless backward traceability.

  1. Record all lot numbers immediately upon delivery. Without seamless accessibility to every single lot number, backward traceability is incomplete. You have no way of knowing if the lot you missed might actually be the one with tainted foods.
  2. Continue to make quality checks through the entire production process. Unless you conduct ongoing quality checks and correct problems as they arise, it’s impossible to back-trace when and where a potential problem began.
  3. Don’t forget to identify who on your team actually verified the quality check. In fact, this may be the most common backward traceability error. Machines don’t actually call the shots. People do. Identify your star players, and work with the ones who need the most help.

Food Traceability is an extremely complex challenge. It starts with your own best practices, but once your products are in the hands of others, it’s a whole new issue.

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