3 Questions To Ask Before Purchasing A Digital Food Safety Recordkeeping System

Recordkeeping is a major part of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, which aims to prevent and ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply from contamination. Digital recordkeeping has become an attractive option for fresh produce growers to keep track of the mind-boggling amount of data that needs to be collected.

The FSMA requires owners and operators to establish and maintain a written food safety plan and document the monitoring of preventive controls, corrective actions, supplier programs, document verification and employee training. The food safety plan must remain at the facility and data must be easily accessible.


MSU Extension’s Phil Tocco poses three questions for growers to consider before making the switch from a paper system to a digital system in “Considerations Before Buying A Food Safety Digital Recordkeeping System.”

What records do you currently keep?

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.

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 United States Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices (USDA-GAP) audit may not be acceptable to an auditor for a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked audit.

For more information, read the full “Considerations Before Buying A Food Safety Digital Recordkeeping System” article at the Michigan State University Extension website. Contact Michigan State University Agrifood Safety Workgroup at 517-788-4292 or [email protected] for help with deciding on a digital recordkeeping program for your operation or for general questions on implementing good food safety practices.