Without a Trace - The Danger Behind an Ineffective Traceability Program

Many good horror stories end with some version of, "... and then she disappeared without a trace." Coincidentally, disappearing without a trace is a different brand of horror in the food production business. In this instance, traceability is an ingredient tracking system used for recalls in cases of food illness or poisoning, and a lack of traceability can be a danger to both consumers and your business.

Facilities track food products through all stages of production, processing, distribution, and retail by using recorded information to store and share information about ingredients, packaging, and other raw materials. While a facility may have a traceability program in place, the difficulty often lies in understanding why such a program is important.

Traceability is a crucial component in food safety and in fostering an effective recall program. If a material defect is thought to have caused a consumer health issue, it's important that investigators can quickly pinpoint the cause in the production chain and halt its progress. Not only does a strong traceability program protect consumer health and meet market/regulatory requirements, but it also provides consumers with accurate information and increases confidence in your product. 

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A lot of detailed planning and processing is involved in each of these steps, but the underlying point is this: When every ingredient in a product is traceable, dangerous problems can be caught and mitigated quickly, possibly saving lives in the process. Employees often mistakenly believe the traceability program is meticulous and overly cautious, and that the information is only needed in the rare instance of a problem. Therefore, accurate data maintenance may not take place on a regular basis. 

Will the traceability information ever be needed? Hopefully, not. But when it is needed, it is a high-stakes situation with critical consequences. For these reasons, education and ongoing training is paramount. A great — and convenient — option is AIB's Food Safety Essentials Training course, an online program that covers all the food safety bases, from allergen control to building maintenance to, of course, traceability and recall. You can train your entire company by paying just one low rate, and because it's online, it's on your schedule.

Learn more about developing an audit-ready traceability program in The AIB GMP and Prerequisite Guide and make traceability a priority in your business today.

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