10 Things To Know About Color-Coding: Traceability

Recalls are serious business.No one wants to see a recall happen to their company, but all too often it happens. So, it goes without saying that food safety is important. From the field all the way to the table, keeping our food safe has to be top priority.  Knowing where food is coming from, and what happens to it on its way to you, can potentially prevent a catastrophic recall. This is known as traceability. Traceability means being able to verify where food has been every step of the way – to the field it came from, to the line it’s processed on, and what truck carried it. It’s a complex chain of custody, but necessary to monitor in order to protect food consumers.

Traceability food safety field to fork

Tracing the overall process is challenging, but it is as difficult, if not more difficult, to maintain that same control over your own facility, and it’s your responsibility. Many food processing facilities are large outfits with numerous people working on different shifts, and some are small, localized businesses with few staff members. Trying to keep track of food’s movements can prove difficult for big processors and mom-and-pop shops alike, and food safety is important in every single production facility.

Having color-coding in processing facilities can only enhance the level of traceability. Having a color-coding system helps to track tools within the facility, making it that much safer. If you use red for the raw meat zone, then you know that a red tool in the yellow zone, which is for processed food, is a contamination threat. You can then take steps to remove the potentially contaminated food from that area.  This is much easier than trying to remove contaminated food after it has left the facility, which could cost millions of dollars.

The benefit of having tools that are completely color-coded is that they provide instant recognition.  If you see just a glimpse of a tool, it is easier to know where it came from if it is in total color.  To know in an instant the origination of a tool is vital to preventing lost time, production shutdown, and delays. Having tight traceability in food processing facilities can not only diminish the chance of a recall, but it also helps keep your facility on time with deadlines, helps the bottom line, and it looks good in the public and regulators eyes.

In order to effectively trace food through the system, though, there must be consistency between all levels of movement. From the farm to the table, everything should be documented for the highest level of traceability.  With the technology we have at our disposal, there is no reason not to be able to considerably reduce the number of recalls we see.  Food processors should urge their suppliers to practice the same level of consistency with food safety. You may not be able to control what happens outside your facility, but you can choose to use suppliers that do follow best practices.

To get started on your color-coding system, download our worksheet to help you get organized.