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Traceability software for optimum food safety

Following products from end to end throughout the processing plant.

Traceability software for optimum food safety

Across the globe, food safety is becoming an ever more important issue. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and more and more retail outlets are insisting that their suppliers guarantee full traceability. Consumer complaints can then be investigated immediately, the source of the problem found and prompt remedial action taken. To meet these end-to-end traceability requirements in the poultry industry, processors must have dedicated software in place.

Traceability is the ability to track food through all stages of production, processing and distribution. Traceability looks both forwards and backwards. It looks back to the raw material used to make a given product. It looks forwards to what products a given batch of raw material went into. A fully traceable process knows where its raw material came from and what it is passing to the next downstream operation.

An end-to-end tracking and tracing system can also give details of quality control checks and can help with audits. It can police ethical claims and the correct composition of ingredients in a given process, thereby protecting brand integrity.

The time window covered by a tracking and tracing system can vary. It can cover a whole day’s production or split the day into shifts. In a similar way, incoming materials can be traceable by supplier, farm or by individual flock from that farm. If there is a recall, the more granular the ability to track and trace, the better. There is a huge difference in cost between having to recall an entire day’s production and a much more limited period. Highly granular systems are, however, more difficult to manage.

Using Innova Food Processing Software, Marel can offer poultry processors full traceability from live bird hang-on to dispatch of the final product. The software covers all in-line processes from hang-on of the live bird to its release as a whole product or cut portion. It then follows all downstream processes to the loading dock.

Activation of the flock switch at live bird hang-on determines the beginning of a new flock. Where line-to-line transfers are automatic using the latest LineLink technology, this information will track automatically through all in-line processes from kill to cut-up. Keeping processes in-line as much as possible makes traceability easy. Where carcasses are immersion chilled off-line, however, count can serve to track the end of one flock and the beginning of the next.

Once carcasses have been released from the overhead conveyor as whole or cut products, an Innova flock becomes an Innova “lot”. Where the downstream process remains in-line, a “lot” can still be the same as the flock, determined by the flock switch at live bird hang-on. An example could be the production of retail breast fillet. After cutting in an ACM-NT system, breast caps proceed smoothly and in-line through AMF-i filleting and RoboBatcher equipment to “end-of-line” weigh-price labelers. All packs of breast fillet produced in this way would then be traceable to a single individual flock.

A “lot”, however, can be a much smaller unit than a flock. It can vary from a batch of product collected in a hopper or at an individual packing station to a complete off-line process.
An off-line process will often begin with product from intermediate WIP (Work in Progress) storage. Typical off-line processes include manual cut-up and deboning for a particular customer, or slicing, dicing and trimming activities. Product for these processes could come from more than one flock.

To illustrate, let’s take the example of breast fillet to be cut and deboned manually in an off-line process. The process requires a given quantity of breast fillet within a certain weight range. Suitable fillet might not be available from a single flock but from two or more flocks. Once collection is complete, the fillet collected becomes a new “lot”, receives a label and is scanned into WIP storage. Innova will know from which flock or flocks the new “lot” came.

On arrival at the off-line process, labels are scanned once more and the necessary work carried out. If the “lot” in WIP isn’t cut and deboned at the same time, there will be new “lots” or batches. On completion, a new label is created for the batch giving information on the date, shift and time the batch was processed. The new label is scanned into Innova, which now knows the origin of the raw material used and when and where cutting and deboning took place. In case of a food safety issue suspected or identified by the customer, this will result in the smallest possible batch of products to be recalled. Having the capability to trace the issue back to its source, Innova helps the processor isolate the products concerned rapidly and prevent them from reaching consumers.

Quite simply, a fully comprehensive Innova tracking and tracing system follows product from one process to the next, all the way through the plant. Where all operations are in-line, this happens automatically after the registration of a new flock or “lot”. Off-line processes require more discipline, as labels must be created for each process step and product scanned into and out of each.
Tracking and tracing with Innova is not limited to poultry meat. The system will also trace packaging materials and all ingredients used in any value added products, providing full wall-to-wall traceability for the poultry processor.

For processors, having a full Innova tracking and tracing system in place equals ensuring optimum food safety at all times. It brings them peace of mind knowing exactly where each product came from and to where it has been distributed. For customers such as supermarkets, Innova will give the guarantee that complaints will be handled promptly and product recalls will have the least possible impact. For consumers, Innova tracing software gives the confidence that the best possible tool has been used for guaranteeing consistently top quality products with known origins.

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