BlueTrace Blog

3 min read

The Crimes Behind the Seafood You Eat

By Chip Terry on Oct 19, 2023 1:04:44 PM

The article from the New Yorker is devastating:  A huge Chinese fleet, manned with at least some slave labor destroying the global squid fisheries to put calamari on the plate of US consumers.  

In a deeply researched article, the authors follow calamari harvested illegally off the the coast of the Galapagos, where at least one crewman died, back to China and then on to "at least 62 American Importers" who sold on to Costco, Kroger, Safeway and others.  

Obviously every industry has bad actors and not every bad act can be stopped.  But the industry needs to move to a new system that prioritizes understanding the chain of custody from boat to plate.  There are a lot of government, NGO and commercial efforts to address this challenge.  But fundamentally, the handwritten paperwork driven by well intentioned regulations is letting bad things happen--while killing productivity.  

A digital first system could help expose challenges a lot earlier and make this type of fraud much harder.  To use a couple of example:

1) The Seafood Import Monitoring Program is a really well intentioned program, but the reality of just uploading documents to a government database is not helping weed out IUUs.  And as of this date, squid is not covered by the program.

2) The MSC/BAP/ASC certification programs all rely on in-person monitors who show up once or twice a year.  And even if we think those are effective, certification programs cover less than 40% of the worlds fisheries.

3) The complexity is huge: 80%+ of US seafood is imported.  Seafood is the most traded protein in the world (3x beef).  The number of products is massive (we often see 1,500+ SKUs at a mid-sized distributor).  

So what are the solutions? Having worked with 100s of seafood operations, I would propose a few things. 

1) Mandate digital data in near real time:  Structured data like (time/location of harvest, fishing vessel, size of catch, species caught) that is then passed through the supply chain lets us find bad actors more easily.  For instance, if a ship reports landing 10,000lbs, but buyers report buying 100,000lbs that should  trigger a follow up.

2) Align FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) so they capture the same data in the same format. Making it easier on all the participants. This includes applying a Traceability Lot Code from the beginning of the chain--even on imported products. 

3) Mandate Labels with Key Information: IMG_6799The labeling of seafood with crayons on wet wax boxes makes it way too easy for bad actors.  Some variation of shellfish tags would be a good start.

IMG_3587 2

4) Lean into DNA/RNA testing: Modern tests can tell the location of a catch--if there is a good underlying database to match to. Sample testing key lots to see if the DNA matched the digital record would be highly effective in rooting out bad actors.

5) Keep it Simple and Inexpensive: Make it easy for folks to comply.  IMG_6802This should not be a mandate that costs the entire chain.  Paired with a simple system, should be a reduction of other regulatory paperwork that maybe isn't as important. 

Government, NGOs and the industry all have roles to play, but we should agree that we want to cover 100% of seafood with an easy to use system that gets everyone on the same page.  Stories like that above hurt the entire industry--even though the vast majority is doing the right thing. 

 

Topics: #FSMA
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2 min read

BlueTrace's Durable, Mobile Tagging Solution

By Cat Ganim on Sep 19, 2023 8:57:47 AM

Our primary goal at BlueTrace is to streamline operations for our customers and save them valuable time. A significant aspect of achieving this goal is minimizing the time required to create tags and attach them to shellfish containers.

The journey of finding a reliable and durable paper product for our mobile printers has been an ongoing endeavor. However, the main challenge we encountered was the lengthy process of sourcing the perfect paper stock, obtaining samples, and conducting thorough testing.

But here's the exciting part: After collaborating with three vendors and meticulously testing five different paper stocks and perforation patterns, we have finally discovered a thicker paper stock that surpasses expectations in terms of durability and ruggedness for shellfish tags and labels. Now, let me delve into the process we underwent and the ultimate decisions we made...

What we were looking for:

  1. Given the fast-paced nature of our customers' operations, it is essential to source a paper stock that can withstand the rapid and sometimes messy tearing at the perforation.
  2. Our paper needs to endure the significant strain exerted by metal clips or zip ties inserted into the hole punches.
  3. We require paper that offers both vertical and horizontal tear resistance, striking a delicate balance between thickness and strength, without compromising the number of tags on each roll.

What we decided on:

  1. We selected a game-changing paper stock for our customers: a robust, 6mil paper stock that is way harder to tear.
  2. This stock can have custom branding applied to the back. To ensure the ink doesn't smudge, a lamination is required.
  3. Although fewer tags fit on each roll due to the thicker stock, we will continue to provide 1500 tags per case.

What paper that failed our testing looks like:

Check out one of the 4mil paper stocks that DID NOT pass my rigorous tests for speedy tearing. Notice that on a few sheets, the rip was not clean.

 

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Here is how the new 6mil paper stock fared when pressure tested in my "printer lab" (a fancy word for my basement). Good news: IT PASSED!

 

We'll be rolling out this durable paper stock to customers in Oct 2023. 

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2 min read

Greenwashing and Shellfish Tags

By Chip Terry on Sep 11, 2023 2:07:00 PM

We have seen a few tag materials that claim to be compostable and recyclable.  If true, this would be a boon to the seafood industry and we would be first in line to embrace it. But the reality is the commercial applications don’t live up to the hype.IMG_9934

Here are the labels that one European company claims is Biodegradable, Compostable and Recyclable.  In a technical sense they are right, but the details really matter.IMG_9933

Recyclable with a code “7” is essentially non-recyclable in most communities.  Here are two descriptions from the web: 

Any type of plastic that doesn’t fit into one of the first six categories falls under this heading. Products stamped with a 7 are often made out of multiple plastic types or out of other types of plastic that can’t easily be recycled. (https://millerrecycling.com/plastics-recycling-numbers)

Number 7 plastics often fall under the miscellaneous category, where anything goes. For years, plastics with resin code 7 weren’t recyclable. This is one of the reasons it isn’t recycled much. Today, the recyclers that recycle number 7 plastics use modern, high rate composting which is costly to run. (https://containerfaqs.com/plastic-number-7-recycling/)


What about the "OK to Compost" label? The OK to compost label is a well respected European standard. According to their website: 

Products that are solely OK compost INDUSTRIAL-certified are those that compost only in industrial composting facilities (at temperatures between 55 to 60°C) [131°F to 140°F], so products that are solely OK compost INDUSTRIAL-certified should not go into the garden compost. (https://www.tuv-at.be/green-marks/certifications/ok-compost-seedling/)

Bottom Line: If you live in a community with a really sophisticated recycling program or have an industrial scale composting system this material is good for the environment.  If you don’t (and most of us don’t) it is just pure greenwashing.  Might as well save your money.  

For more information on the broader challenge of plastic recycling, this Frontline Documentary is a good starting point.  This is a hard problem and I wish we had a better solution--but making consumers feel good by misleading them is not helpful to anyone.  

The bigger problem for the industry as a whole is the packaging (boxes, bags, styrofoam containers) that are necessary for safe and efficient food handling, but are seldom recycled. 

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1 min read

Recalls don't have to be scary

By Chip Terry on Sep 5, 2023 12:02:29 PM

Recalls happen--fortunately not very frequently--but they are a fact of life in any food industry. Most recalls are precautionary.  In other words, there are nodist-recall-smconfirmed illnesses.  

So far this year we have seen recalls in ME, MA, RI, CT, NY, VA, Canada, and elsewhere.  

If handled properly, your company should have limited/no liability and it should not impact your operations.  

When a recall happens, you should get that product out of the system as quickly as possible.  This is why companies are supposed to have a written recall plan.  And why inspections often include a mock recall.  

Knowing how much time this takes and how important it is, BlueTrace built a recall feature that automates much of the recall. 

The recall feature is included in all our products as part of the base package. Handling recalls properly is important for the health of the entire industry and we want to make sure everyone can do it properly. 

The process is simple:

1) Identify the lots that are being recalled (in the log).

2) Push the Recall button (note only the owner/manager has access to this).

3) Fill out the form and push enter

Two things will happen:

1) If there is an email in the system for the client, we will send them a notice

2) We will change the landing page under the QR code so anyone scanning the QR code with their phone will see that there is a recall for this lot.

You should still reach out personally to any of your impacted client and you should still keep track of what product has been returned and/or destroyed.

We hope it is a feature you never have to use.  

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1 min read

Virginia Oyster Recall

By Chip Terry on Aug 11, 2023 12:23:15 PM

Below are the details of a recall published on August 11, 2023--for oyster harvested in June 2023!!  I sure hope these are not still in circulation.  We checked with our clients and they are all clear. Hopefully no one got sick, but it clearly cost the folks involved a ton of time and hurt their reputation.   

The regulators are doing their job and making sure we all stay safe--and our industry stays healthy.  Let's all help make their jobs easy.  

Bottom line: Pay attention to those rain closures. 

The Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Safety and Waterborne Hazards is reporting 10,000 oysters were harvested on June 28, 2023, from lease # 20655 in Pungoteague Creek when a rainfall closure was in effect, and therefore, the product which was harvested is deemed unfit for human consumption. The original harvest date is 6/28/2023 and was wet stored until 7/3/2023 and/or 7/5/2023, when the shellstock oysters were shipped and entered into
interstate commerce. Records obtained indicate that the affected product was sent to Texas and Washington DC on 7/3/2023 and to Massachusetts on 7/5/2023. It is not yet known where the product was subsequently shipped and no illnesses have been reported involving this lease and harvest date.

A recall is being conducted. As more information becomes available, updates will be provided.
__________________________________________
Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference
4801 Hermitage Road, Suite 102
Richmond, VA 23227
Phone: 804-330-6380
Email: issc@issc.org

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3 min read

Seed Funding Announcement

By Alessandra Bosco on Feb 16, 2023 9:00:00 AM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Alessandra Bosco
BlueTrace
(202) 821-7245
alessandra@blue-trace.com

BlueTrace raises $4 million to modernize the seafood industry

New funding will enable the industry pioneer to modernize seafood operations from tideline to table.

Castine, ME, February 16, 2023 - BlueTrace, the easiest and most powerful traceability solution for seafood harvesters, growers, distributors, processors, and dealers, today announced $3.2 million in Seed funding, bringing the company’s fundraising total to $4.1 million. The round was led by York IE, Maine Venture Fund, and CEI Ventures, with participation from various angel investors, including SeaAhead

“Sustainable seafood is great for our communities, our planet, and our health,” said Chip Terry, CEO. “Our mission is to keep the seafood supply chain safe, efficient, and compliant by digitizing key transactions to make seamless traceability possible. We have a long list of desired features from our clients — this new funding will help us deliver them.”

Joe Raczka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at York IE, has joined BlueTrace’s board of directors. Raczka will collaborate with existing board members Abigail Carroll, an oyster farmer turned investor and podcaster, and Dave Ford, a tech entrepreneur and angel investor.

“BlueTrace is bringing a unique digital solution to a traditionally non-digital, tech-laggard industry,” Raczka said. “Chip and the rest of the talented team have proven their product market fit and will continue improving the seafood landscape.”

After identifying a need to manage and track harvests in the shellfish market more effectively, Terry and his partners founded BlueTrace, formerly known as Oyster Tracker, in 2018. After initial traction with shellfish harvesters and distributors, BlueTrace has begun expanding its digital platform to support the broader seafood landscape. 

Seafood organizations of any size can use BlueTrace’s cloud-based solutions from their smartphones to create logs (harvest, HACCP, receiving, shipping, cooling, etc.) and tag their products. The system empowers frontline employees to easily track and trace shipments. A regulatory rules engine increases compliance while reducing redundant paperwork.  

In November, the FDA announced the final food traceability rules for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will begin to take effect in 2023. BlueTrace already enables seafood businesses to comply with these increasingly stringent requirements.

“BlueTrace is a game-changer that’s meeting the unique needs of the seafood industry,” said Joe Lasprogata, Vice President, New Product Development at Samuels Seafood. “Our company moves millions of pounds of seafood each year, which obviously means a lot of moving parts. BlueTrace’s platform helps us organize our shipments and give us confidence that we’re staying compliant. ”

BlueTrace announced 121% growth in 2022, expanding its customer base from 150 clients to over 350. With clients in all but two coastal U.S. states and most Canadian provinces, BlueTrace has become the go-to solution for seafood tagging and traceability. 

The company has won two Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which oversees fishery regulations.

Visit blue-trace.com or email sales@blue-trace.com to learn more and request a quote.

About BlueTrace 
BlueTrace offers the easiest and most powerful traceability platform for seafood growers, wholesalers, distributors, and dealers. Its mobile solutions, designed specifically for the seafood industry, enable users to reduce redundant data entry and errors, streamline operations, and trace their products from tideline to table. Learn more at blue-trace.com.

Media Contact
Alessandra Bosco
BlueTrace
(202) 821-7245
alessandra@blue-trace.com

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2 min read

What If? Digital Receiving and Labeling

By Chip Terry on Feb 14, 2023 10:46:50 AM

The receiving dock at seafood companies can be chaos.  IMG_0935

We recently watched a harried guy with a clipboard direct six forklifts unloading 14 tractor trailers' worth of seafood one morning. Salmon from Norway, squid from California, tuna from Costa Rica, lobster from Maine, mussels from Canada, oysters from the Chesapeake. The list went on and on.  

All of it had different paperwork. Some carried MSC certification. Others had SIMP paperwork. Some had temperature gauges. Some had GS1 bar codes — most didn't. Measurements varied from counts, to weights, volumes or just a count of boxes.  

We watched this very talented and experienced guy make errors — a five instead of a nine, the wrong date (I would have made many more errors). Most product came in with bills of lading, invoices, and wax boxes with handwritten and/or very inconsistent labels.  

IMG_6799

The paperwork then all went into a back room where inventory was updated, orders were filled, checks were written, and hopefully everything lined up. The time spent, the error rates, and the slow inventory churn cause trouble for everyone.

We have been working on a better way with our clients: digital labels and digital receiving

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  
Digital Receiving
Our clients now receive receive-favoriteeverything on their phones and take pictures as needed, thus reducing errors and speeding up all the back-office challenges. We can also integrate this data with most accounting systems. It's super easy to use — a client needs almost no training. Accuracy improves dramatically, and the time spent on redundant data entry drops.

Digital Labeling 
Our most successful clients also ask their partners to use our tags or labels. That way, when the sender prints a tag or label, the receiver gets an Advance Shipping Notification. They can process all the paperwork ahead of time, and when the product arrives, just scan the QR code and confirm receipt.  Now everything has a clean label and access to all the data points a business needs. No need to talk GS1, GDST, EDI. or any of the other acronym soups.  Just print a label and stick it on the box (or even directly on a fish).  
clam_case

Bottom line: Digital receiving and digital labeling reduce errors, improve throughput, and make your business manageable.  

 

 

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2 min read

FDA Final Rule for Food Traceability

By Chip Terry on Nov 15, 2022 4:19:12 PM

The FDA today announced the final rule for Food Traceability that was required by the Food Safety Modernization Act law.  We will explore this is future blog posts, but let's start with the high level: 

Food Safety First: In the words of the FDA, this rule is "designed to facilitate faster identification and rapid removal of potentially contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses and/or deaths" It has nothing to do with fraud, sustainability, fisheries management or any of the other reasons folks implement traceability systems. 

Most fresh foods are covered, including:  fresh cut fruits and vegetables, shell eggs, and nut butters, as well as certain fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, ready-to-eat deli salads, cheeses, and seafood products.  

In the seafood world, the exemptions include: Scallop Abductor muscle, and Catfish.

In a change from the original law is: Raw bivalve molluscan shellfish that are covered by the requirements of the National Shellfish Sanitation Program...are exempt from the requirements of the rule.  A good thing since the rules for shellfish are already tighter than this new rule.  

The rule is all about record keeping: In particular most firms are required to supply information to the FDA in a "sortable spreadsheet" within 24 hours of request. The records must cover: Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and required Key Data Elements (KDEs).

Traceability Lot Code: These records must be linked with a Traceability Lot Code (TLC) that does not change unless the product is transformed. TLCs can only be assigned by either the First Land Based Receiver or a Processor who is Transforming the product.  

You Have time: The rule will take 3 years to be fully implemented.  In other words, take a breadth, explore the rule and then think about what needs to change.

Here is a video from the FDA using an example of a Tuna.

 

 

 

 

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BlueTrace: How Did We Get Here?

By Chip Terry on Oct 17, 2022 1:16:06 PM

Many thanks to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute for putting together an amazing 4 minute video introducing BlueTrace.    Enjoy.

 

 

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1 min read

Inventory Labels?

By Chip Terry on Sep 12, 2022 10:13:41 AM

Our latest release introduced inventory labels. Why?  

Clients were telling us about the challenges of managing that fast-moving cold room. What is there? What should I pick? They confront challenges like packers taking the newest product (what's on top) rather than the oldest product with the shortest lifespan.

An inventory label is designed to print out when you receive product. It has the harvest date, product name, and quantity front and center. Folks add it to the top of a bin, a clipboard, a whiteboard, or even in a wet storage bin so everyone knows what that product is. That QR code links to all the information about the product and can be used to add product to orders. 

The takeaway: Saving time and reducing errors has a huge impact on your bottom line.  IMG_0512

Inventory Labels work well on a vat or in a tote :IMG_0815IMG_6806

 

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