The Recall Time Loop
A recall is hard enough, without the process dragging on for several cycles and several months. The years long Takata airbag and recent General Mills flour recalls that go through cycle after cycle are some recent examples of long painful recalls that never seem to go away. We just got our Honda recall notice a couple weeks ago for airbags years after the first announcement. Taking the steps to get traceability done right the first time will greatly reduce this exposure.
If you are doing your job right in the Food Safety area, it is very likely that your recall will be based on an issue with a purchased ingredient. SMB food manufacturers just do not have the resources to test every lot coming in the door. This means that if you are a typical food processor, you are going to find that ingredient in more than one product and more than one batch. This is where the one up and one down can catch you with your pants down.
Pull up the diagram to the right, and you can see how a likely complaint will filter through your production cycle and customer base when an ingredient is involved. You will see from this one example on one lot that an ingredient used in only 4 products can generate recall chains affecting many customers not in the original product issue. In your typical FDA trace of a lot, you might only identify the ingredient as the source of contamination but not trace forward again to other production. This would still leave you with tracing every other batch and product the ingredient was used in.
This is where a new generation of simple inventory and production software can greatly reduce your risk and increase the traceability of your product. This example is only showing 4 recipes and 3 clients for each product. Many of my clients have dozens of ingredients, 10 or more products and hundreds of clients. The permutations for this complexity would overwhelm most hand or excel based record systems.
Even very small producers and Brand Holders with contract manufacturing should consider an online inventory system to track the distribution of lots. We provide hand systems when helping clients start down the road to food safety, but the ability to track even a moderate amount of production and distribution with records that have to be updated offline as paper or Excel sheets quickly results in insufficient use of the system. Choosing a system that is both easy to use, and has integrations with many of the business support tools such as CRM and accounting will increase your production control and traceability, while reducing the actual time you spend offline entering data.