In the food manufacturing world, fortune favors the prepared. Unfortunately, for many food manufacturers, when it comes to the subject of food safety and issuing recalls, preparation is a missing link in their supply chain.
More educated consumers combined with tougher industry standards are creating a different environment for food manufacturers—one in which they need to take a proactive stance in ensuring their manufacturing process is equipped to deliver the utmost health and safety to the consumers who buy their products.
While situations like the Listeria outbreak stemming from Blue Bell Creameries has certainly generated media attention, the reality is that while the food industry is often quick in its reactionary approach to reducing the impact of foodborne illnesses, it’s less than stellar in maximizing technology to proactively prevent these unwelcoming and often tragic events.
Similar to Stephen Covey’s book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which examined the traits displayed by successful people, the following are specific traits exhibited by the track and trace technologies of successful manufacturers.
Trait 1: Provides Real-Time Results and Visibility
When used correctly, track and trace technology should allow manufacturers to identify and address product issues in real time before a product ever leaves the production line. With these insights, manufacturers can correct problems before they ever impact consumers.
Trait 2: Mitigates Risk
Effective track and trace technology can significantly reduce financial risks and save brand reputations. Consider for example the Peanut Corporation of America tragedy. According to reports, it was the deadliest Salmonella outbreak in recent years, killing nine and impacting hundreds of others across the country. The outbreak additionally resulted in a virtual life sentence for the company’s owner. Implementing the best type of track and trace technology could have prevented the catastrophe caused by contamination. Needless to say, it is well worth the investment and far less costly in the long run.
Trait 3: Accurately and Efficiently Documents Processes
As an example of where effective documentation derived from track and trace technology can come in handy, think of a dairy manufacturer who ships milk to stores throughout the U.S. Some of the stores are mom-and-pop shops while others are large grocery store retailers. An instance occurs where the dairy manufacturer needs to conduct a mass recall of the milk because of a misstep in the production line. In theory, its track and trace technology should document all of the product details from ingredients to distributor/retailer delivery.
Additionally, track and trace solutions can include built-in controls to provide manufacturers with visibility into qualified suppliers and the ability to specify incoming inspection requirements.
Trait 4: Allows Manufacturers to Communicate
One misstep in handling a product or ingredient can result in far-flung serious health problems for consumers. With advanced track and trace technology, manufacturers can better communicate to suppliers and customers if there’s an issue. In the event that a recall needs to be issued, the track and trace technology should send out notifications while seamlessly finding the exact origin of the contamination fast.
Trait 5: Enables Preparedness
The more details food manufacturers have the better. In the event of a recall or near miss, when credibility and time are both of the essence, manufacturers need to be ready to respond to inquiries and take action. Useful track and trace technology can allow manufacturers to answer targeting questions about specific products including: production location, quantity of product, when products were produced, if additional raw ingredients were used, what other products your ingredient was used in, and quality assurance available for each item.
Without having this data easily at their disposal, manufacturers will not be equipped to prevent or quickly respond to contamination.
Trait 6: Keeps Up with Compliance
Realizing the need for increased measures to improve food safety, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA, was instituted. With this change, focus on current food contamination responses will shift from being responsive to being preventative; an integral place where advanced track and trace technology needs to be implemented.