Lot Identification of the Products that You Produce
By Lynn Knipe
Many are panicking over the thought of lot identifying all of their products, and particularly, in being able to recall raw materials purchased from other suppliers, in the event of a supplier's recall. First, lot identification of the' products that you produce is necessary, due to FSIS' pre-shipment review requirement, associated with the HACCP process, and therefore, it is of highest priority at this time. You are encouraged to lot identify the products that you make, and get comfortable with that process before you try to tie the lot information of received products to the lots that you produce
Like product is defined as products of similar composition and processing, such as various varieties of hot dogs (may vary in seasonings, casing sizes, etc., and still be considered "like products").
To lot identify your production for slaughter or cutting processes, you could assign the date to the carcass tag or package label for all product processed during a particular day (Table 1). Both date of processing and quantity of each lot need to be recorded. Note that actual date, and Julian date (progressive counting of days of the entire year) are demonstrated here, but other means of identifying the date of processing may be used. The Julian dating system is often used so as not to make the processing date completely obvious to the general public. In the case of companies which do both slaughter and cutting, two methods of differentiating the slaughter and cutting dates are demonstrated (Table 1). In the beef carcass cutting example, a "C" was added to the date, in order to make it clear that this date
Table 1. Lot identification examples for slaughter and cutting processes at ABC Company
is the cutting date, not the slaughter date. In the hog carcass example the company initials "ABC" were added to the Julian date, also to differentiate the cut product lot identification from the slaughter lot identification, and from other cuts that the ABC company might purchase from other companies.
For further processed products, which may contain common ingredients; lots may be identified by a mixer batch (all products made from one mixer batch), a brine batch (all products injected with the same batch of brine), etc. (Table 2). Again, either the actual date or Julian date could be used to date and/or identify the lot on the product package.
The sub-lot examples show how you might differentiate between product made in the first half of the day (hot dogs, A for a.m.) vs. the second half of the day (hot dogs, P for p.m.), or product made during first shift (cured ham, A for first shift), vs. second shift (cured ham, B for second shift) (Table 2). One could sub-lot product by stuffer number, oven or smoke house, etc., in the event that more than one stutter or oven are used in this process. You can sublot by time, but a sublot cannot less than 2 hours of processing time.
Table 2. Lot identification examples for further processed products at ABC
Note in the raw rework example (Table 2), that a separate lot identification is recommended and an "R" is added to lot identification to make rework clearly distinguishable from other ground meat.
While you are encouraged to lot identify the products that you produce before tying lot information of ingredients that go into your products, the component lot column (Table 2) demonstrates how you could keep track of multiple lots that went into that a lot that you produced. Again, note that the quantity of product used in each of your batches is documented.
Finally, it is wise to track where your products are shipped, particularly when you are selling a larger percentage to only a few customers. Table 3 shows how you might document these shipments, with your lot numbers, quantities shipped, customer names, and date shipped.
Table 3. ABC Shipping Records
Just as school children do fire drills to practice for that potential crisis, it is wise to do mock recalls to test your lot identification system. See how quickly and completely you can find products which are assigned a particular lot number. If you find your system is not so efficient, then adjust the process and repeat the mock recall, until you are comfortable with your process. Be assured that most larger companies have had to adjust their lotting system many times, and were not successful in getting it right in the first attempt.