Traceability and Lot/Batch Codes

Ontario Regulation 119/11 requires all maple syrup to be labelled with a code identifying the production lot of the maple syrup. Unfortunately, there are times when a recall may be necessary for maple syrup or maple products. It is thus necessary for syrup producers to use a code labelling system and keep detailed records for every batch of syrup.

These lot or batch codes and records will protect your syrup. If a recall occurs, only the batch that food inspectors identified as a problem will be recalled. However, if your syrup is not lot coded, the entire year’s production could be considered one lot and all of it may need to be removed and/or destroyed.

Sap or syrup that is purchased by producers from other suppliers for resale must also be traceable to the source.

What is a Lot Code?

A production lot code or lot code is simply a code that represents maple syrup which has been produced, processed or packaged under similar circumstances. This code can be directly on the label or attached to the container (i.e., sticker, tag). It should be specific to each production lot and legible for the shelf life of the maple syrup.

Any number or combination of numbers and/or letters is acceptable, as long as the lot code can be traced back to records that indicate the meaning of the code. The table below shows some examples of lot codes:

Type Example
Date of production/packingIf maple syrup was packed on March 21, 2017 the code could be: 032117 (month, day, year) or 172103 (year, day, month).  Consumers are unlikely to confuse this code format with a product expiry date.
Julian Date (three digit number assigned to each day of the year)The Julian date begins with 001 (January 1) and ends with 365 or 366 (December 31). If maple syrup was packed on March 21, 2017 the code would be 08017.
Create your ownMake up a code for each production lot using letters and/or numbers that works for your operation.
3 different lot codes. One is in sharpie written directly on the container and says 11-41. The second is a small white label with the numbers 130921 printed on it. The third is a barcode.

Codes can be a simple hand written number system, a coded label, or a high-tech bar code that can be used to track inventory and location of the product. As long as the producer understands the meaning of the coding system for traceability, the method is acceptable.

Production and Distribution Records

In order for lot codes to have meaning, they must be accompanied by records to indicate the meaning of the code. Records for each production code should be kept for a period of time longer than the expected shelf life of the product. These records should include the following important pieces of information:

  • The total amount of product bearing the code
  • The type of packaging (e.g., glass or plastic)
  • Container sizes and number produced of each size
  • The date packed
  • The source of the product (especially if syrup or sap was purchased from another producer)
  • Any production notes (e.g. weather, air pressure)

If you are selling in bulk/not selling direct to consumers, distribution records should also be kept and should include:

  • Quantity information
  • Container sizes and type of container
  • Buyer/consignee name
  • Address, telephone number, and e-mail address
  • Contact person’s name

If a particular contaminant is a concern, or documented proof of safe syrup is desired, producers can arrange to have their syrup tested with an accredited lab. Test results are kept confidential to assist a producer to correct a problem if it exists.

Free Food Safety and Traceability Online Courses

Access the Food Safety and Traceability eLearning courses online on the Agriculture and Food Education in Ontario online learning system through the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus.

The Traceability eLearning courses show how good practices can:

  • maximize productivity, improve business efficiency, reduce costs and improve business processes
  • be used to increase competitive advantage by accessing new markets
  • improve supply chain management

The Food Safety eLearning courses will help you to:

  • identify food safety hazards that can occur in your operation
  • understand best practices and develop programs to control these hazards
  • decrease the likelihood of food safety hazards that can lead to a foodborne illness outbreak or product recall
Two photos: the one on the left is someone scanning barcodes on a palette of boxes. The second is someone washing their hands.

Visit the University of Guelph website to register for a FREE account. Then simply log in and begin learning – wherever and whenever is convenient for you! Accessible versions of the courses are available. For more information, contact the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus at or 519-674-1500 ext. 63295.

Online course development was funded through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative that encourages innovation, competitiveness and market development in Canada’s agri-food and agri-products sector.