Documentation and Traceability
Is Vital for Growers
Maintaining readily retrievable records of all almond farm operations is essential and beneficial when it comes to food safety. Although there are many common elements, each farm operation is unique. Specific documentation and record-keeping down to the specific orchard are optimal to maximize investment in risk reduction.
There are no off-the-shelf GAP programs, however resources are available to help growers get started with a written plan and key documentation development. Documentation can be as simple as using a calendar to record activities in the orchard. The key is not to be intimidated into inaction. A GAP program can evolve in phases, working toward the point where adequate records include (but are not limited to):
- Detailed diagram of facility and orchard layout
- Detailed flow-chart or spreadsheet for variety mix and harvest sequence
- Detailed diagram of adjacent land use, operations, and influences
- Crop management flow chart (pre-bloom to post-harvest)
- Worker training programs and evidence of training
- Placement and servicing of sanitary facilities
- Invoice records for sanitation and personal hygiene supplies
- Water source information, water testing plan and results
- All pesticide and foliar application information
- All fertility management operations
- Detailed orchard floor management program
Traceback is the ability to track food items at least one step forward and one step back in the supply chain. Not only should you be able to identify what orchards specific lots were grown in, but you should also be able to identify what huller/sheller and handler your product was processed through. In the event of an investigation, the ability to produce all documentation readily allows suspect product to be recalled in a timely manner. A system to identify the source of almonds alone cannot prevent the occurrence of a microbiological, physical, or chemical hazard that may lead to a product recall.
An effective almond traceback process can rapidly indentify and isolate suspect product to a specific region, packing facility, or orchard. Without effective traceback documentation the scope of a product recall can be larger than needed with more product implicated. An effective traceback system speeds up investigations and limits the amount of disruption to the processing and marketing of your crop while building confidence among regulators and consumers that the industry is dedicated to producing a safe and wholesome product.
Growers are the first step in delivering a safe product to consumers around the world. In order to implement an effective traceback system growers should establish lot identification and recordkeeping practices. At a minimum growers should take the following steps:
- Maintain records of orchard practices prior to harvest
- Establish a lot numbering scheme as loads are harvested and maintain records of lot numbers for all loads of almonds leaving your farm
- Be sure that each load leaving your farm can be traced one step back to the orchard of origin and date of harvest, as well as one step forward to the huller/sheller, handling facility and/or customer
An effective almond traceback program will enable you to trace product at least one step forward and one step back in the supply chain.
Additional information and access to GAP planning resources are available from the University of California, Davis at http://ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu and http://ucgaps.ucdavis.edu.
Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables