Best features for a food safety digital recordkeeping

The potential for digital recordkeeping of food safety data is now easier than ever. This article outlines the components of an ideal recordkeeping system.

As mobile devices and cloud computing have become more common, the potential for digital recordkeeping of food safety data is now easier than ever. Whether you’re evaluating various systems in the marketplace or creating your own, here are some of the features of an ideal system for comparison.

If a perfect system were created, it would allow every individual who deals with food safety on a farm to have a dashboard with just the information they need to input or output. This system would be scalable to all operation sizes and fully configurable as needs change. The system would use existing devices, like cell phones, tablets and label printers, and have data stored on a cloud server that is regularly backed up. It would allow for case level traceability back to the field. The food safety supervisor would get an alert if there was a nonconformance and notification that a corrective action occurred.

Growers could be able to track the product in real time from the field until it leaves their chain of custody. A buyer could use a cellphone app to scan the barcode on the case to pull up the full production history of that case, including pesticide spray records, worker training and crop input verification. The perfect system would be PTI (Produce Traceability Initiative) compliant and fully auditable across all audit schemes. However, the perfect system does not exist.

Despite the fact that the perfect system doesn’t exist, a lot of aspects of a perfect system do exist. Knowing what you want a system to do, as well as what you need a system to do, are really the first steps in shopping for a digital recordkeeping system.

Before getting too far into a particular digital recordkeeping program, it is important to verify your auditor will accept the method you are using. In some cases, what is acceptable for a USDA GAP audit may not be acceptable to an auditor for a GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative) Benchmarked audit.

If you would like more information on creating a digital recordkeeping program for your farm, or have general questions on implementing good food safety practices on your farm, contact the Michigan State University Extension Agrifood Safety Workgroup at 517-788-4292 or at

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