Product units for traceability

Product units for traceability

Production line in a food factory. Meat products preparation

The key to an effective traceability system is the assigning of a unique identification mark or code to a specific unit of a food material or product, and then maintaining the integrity of the unit with the identification information.

Definition of a unit

What constitutes a product unit will depend to a large extent on the nature of the product and production operation. A product unit is variously described as a batch, lot, consignment, etc.

A batch, lot or consignment are essentially the same, and a lot is defined in the ISO22005 standard on traceability in the feed and food chain as 'set of units of a product which have been produced and/or processed or packaged under similar conditions'. The method of identifying a lot will depend on the operation being carried out, such as whether it is a batch or continuous process.

Product units for traceability

Batch operations are where the production operation is carried out on one batch at a time (e.g. processing of products in discrete units such as a specific formulation or treatment operation). The batch operation records can then provide a direct linkage between the batch process and product produced.

In a continuous operation, on the other hand, (e.g. processing of products in a continuously operated line for a defined period), the linkage with the product is based on the particular production run start and finish time, date, and so on.

The nature of the product may also dictate how a set of units of product is identified. While it is often possible to identify a discrete set of units of product individually, such as animal carcasses, pallets of bagged potatoes, or boxes of lettuces, the same cannot be said for materials handled loose including bulked or mixed materials from different sources, such as potatoes or cereals in a storage unit. In the latter case it may be the physical bulk that is identified.