BlueTrace Blog

Chip Terry

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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. (

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. (

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. (

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

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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.  


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

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).  

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.


HubSpot Video


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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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3 min read

Greenhouse Gas Emissions & Seafood

By Chip Terry on Jun 15, 2022 7:51:43 PM

BlueTrace was asked recently about greenhouse gas emissions and seafood. Our initial reaction was that there wasn't much of a story, but we did some research — and it turns out that the industry can have a positive impact on C02 emissions. Here's the overview:
  1. Reduced Emissions. Both wild-caught seafood and aquaculture produce less CO2 than most other traditional sources of protein (Oceana 2021, Nature 2021). For every gram of protein we consume from wild-caught fisheries instead of beef, we are reducing the CO2 impact by 82% (89% for aquaculture). Comparing to beef yields the most dramatic difference, but even moving from chicken to aquaculture would reduce CO2 per gram by almost 50%. Aquaculture produces over 50% of the seafood we consume today.

    Although going vegan would be the best option in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, convincing folks to switch out a steak for oysters and salmon is a lot more realistic.

  2. Substituting Seafood. Recent research also indicates that beyond the CO2 impact, more seafood would also be critical for feeding a growing population a healthy diet. According to the journal Nature:

    "Globally, we find that a high-production scenario will decrease [seafood] prices by 26% and increase their consumption, thereby reducing the consumption of red and processed meats that can lead to diet-related non-communicable diseases while also preventing approximately 166 million cases of inadequate micronutrient intake. 

    In other words, more seafood represents a win for the planet and for the people most at risk from malnutrition. Of course, not all seafood is equal, so traceability will matter — and is indeed critical to making this transition successful (Monterey Bay Seafood Watch).

  3. Less Waste. What about waste? An estimated 39% (USDA) to 50% (Gunders, 2012) of seafood is wasted (harvested but not consumed). That loss is massive, equating to enough protein to feed 12.4 million women for a year (or 10.1 million men).  Much of the waste is outside our purview (bycatch on fishing boats or disposed of by restaurants/consumers). But a significant portion occurs within the distribution system. Seafood is more prone to wastage than meat since:

    "Fish spoil quickly due to digestive enzymes, microbial spoilage, and oxidation, which change the odor, flavor and texture of fish (Ghaly et al., 2010); (iii) the different microbial and chemical food safety risks from seafood than from other meats, including histamine or scombroid food poisoning due to spoilage; (iv) strong odors that are not always associated with food safety risks, but may raise safety and quality concerns among retailers, food service providers and consumers."

    Even a 10% reduction in wastage would deliver major benefits (Global Environmental Change, Sierra Club).
According to our customers, BlueTrace's tracking technology reduces loss and improves the safety of seafood. Even something as simple as giving folks alerts about the date seafood was harvested can have a huge impact.  image (5)

Wild seafood has a lower carbon footprint than red meat, cheese, and chicken, according to latest data, Oceana: 2021

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2 min read

Streamlining the Receiving Dock

By Chip Terry on Jun 6, 2022 10:55:00 AM

Receiving docks are chaotic—and incredibly important. Receiving is a regulated "Critical Tracking Event" in which the buyer is supposed to transcribe the "Key Data Elements" and ensure that the product is what they ordered and that the cold chain has been maintained. Having observed many receiving docks, we understand that the time wasted, the errors introduced, and the money lost can be significant.

There are obvious ways to improve this process, some of which the best companies have implemented. In particular, they get information about a shipment before it arrives and have the product properly labeled with a link to the digital record so receiving involves only scanning—not trying to read someone's handwriting.

Historically, this sort of tool has been available only to the largest companies. But BlueTrace has developed a system accessible to the vast majority of the market. 

Our platform is inexpensive and works with existing CRM/ERM/WMS systems. We can get a company up and running in less than an hour.

Here's how it works:

  1. Suppliers Print & Affix Label: Your suppliers download the BlueTrace app, enter in information about the shipment, and print a label that includes a QR code. It takes less than a minute and minimal training.  The cost is ~$750 for the printer.  Our existing Harvest Tagging clients can already do this.

    Samuels Print & Label DA220
    There is no subscription fee for your suppliers, and labels are designed to stick to wet wax boxes.

  2. Receiver Gets Shipping Notification: When the supplier prints out a tag, we send the buyer Advanced Shipping Notifications with all the key information. This communication can occur in-app, or if needed, we can pass the information into an existing system (NetYield, Seasoft, Innova, etc.). If the buyer is not our client, they get an email with all the information.

    Image from iOS (122)

  3. Buyer Scans Tag: At the receiving dock, the label is scanned using an existing iPhone or iPad (no new hardware needed). The buyer confirms the product is in good shape and records the temperature. The buyer has thus  created a HACCP log and a digital traceability chain. The supplier receives automatic notification that the product arrived—saving time, reducing errors, and improving your margins.

Image from iOS (121)


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2 min read

Anatomy of an Oyster Recall

By Chip Terry on Apr 11, 2022 3:51:20 PM

Oysters are a safe food, and very few people get sick from eating them. When something bad does happen, though, news stories get out of control, and the whole industry is harmed. A recent oyster recall in British Columbia illustrates the challenges. Here is what we know so far (this is an ongoing story, so more details will likely emerge):

1) On Sunday, March 20, 2022, the Canadian Government found norovirus in oysters from BC and issued the first of what became a series of six overlapping recalls on oysters. The majority of the product was harvested between March 7 and March 14.    

2) Many of the oysters were shipped well beyond BC, including to distributors in Washington state and California. Washington issued a health advisory for specific BC oysters on Friday, April 1 — 13 days after the first BC recall notice. California issued a recall on Sunday, April 3 — 16 days after the first BC recall.  34 people in California got sick from the BC oysters by the time of the advisory in CA.

3) By April 1, media stories begin to appear in Washington, Florida, Massachusetts, California, New York, and elsewhere about people getting sick.

4) Meanwhile, we heard from our distributor clients who were working hard to track these oysters and get them out of the system. One client even had to call its trucks in NYC to stop delivery of these specific oysters.

5) Food Safety News (written by a leading food safety attorney) reports on Thursday April 7th that over 103 people in California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas and Washington are confirmed sick from this particular batch of oysters.  

6) Meanwhile back in BC, major farms are shut down (probably for 2+ months) and are suffering huge financial losses.  While the CFIA reports 328 illnesses from this norovirus outbreak across Canada, including in: British Columbia (293), Alberta (3), Saskatchewan (1), Manitoba (15) and Ontario (16).

My takeaways:

1) Good people worked really hard to make sure this didn't get worse. Distributors and regulators spent hundreds of hours trying to get this product out of the system.  So far, there are no deaths reported--a huge win. 

2) The recalls were too manual and slow--there should have been a more automated system for making sure different jurisdictions acted more quickly. 

3) The liability risk is probably large. I'm no lawyer, but clearly everyone is concerned about lawsuits.  

4) The entire industry is the loser:  We have heard anecdotal stories of folks avoiding all oysters after coming across the stories circulating.  

There are a lot of ways this process could be improved, including better/faster communications and a true digital traceability chain. The regulators in the U.S. should have been able to issue faster recalls/advisories. Thirteen days was too long.

A farmer or distributor with a recall should be able to notify all their buyers with a couple of keystrokes. And restaurants should be able to scan a QR code and confirm there are no recalls prior to serving that product.  

Nothing will ever be foolproof, but we can do better, and there is a clear path to improvement. 

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