Considerations before buying a food safety digital recordkeeping system

Before buying a food safety digital recordkeeping system, consider what is actually needed, what is wanted and what the application can accomplish.

It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of data a fresh produce grower needs to track and be able to recall at a moment’s notice. This is particularly true when it comes to food safety recordkeeping. As mobile devices and cloud computing have become more common, the potential for digital recordkeeping is now easier than ever. In many cases, these digital records are fully acceptable by auditors as official records. Before switching from a paper system to a digital system, there are some things to consider before jumping in with both feet.

What records do you currently keep?

Systems exist that will record traceability, payroll, worker productivity, pesticide use and a whole host of different records. Buying a system that keeps records of things you don’t currently track and don’t need to track is not productive. The best way to avoid this is to start system selections that can track those records you currently keep.

Is there economic or managerial value in bringing several sets of somewhat unrelated data together to base management decisions on?

Payroll and worker productivity data are helpful in making hiring decisions in subsequent years. These patterns of payroll and production can be seen on paper, but are even more easily seen with digital records. Pesticide efficacy can also be more quickly determined once a grower pairs spray records with harvest data. Again, this can be done on paper, but can also be done with the click of a mouse in a digital recordkeeper.

Will my auditor accept digital records?

Not all auditors will accept all digital records. It is important to verify that 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 Benchmarked audit.

If you would like more information on deciding on 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

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