Whether you are a startup or an established business, food traceability is vital to your success wherever perishables are concerned. Your ability to readily track and trace the product from ‘field to fork’ is fundamental to your existence. If you ever have the misfortune to face a recall, time is of the essence. You need speedy, accurate and relevant data to help minimize the impact. The ability to immediately trace-back and trace-forwards to identify exactly which batches and customer shipments are affected is vital. Without good, accurate traceability data, you might have to recall entire day’s, week’s or even month’s production, and this can cost a fortune.
Why is food traceability important?
In the food industry, freshness and quality of product can make or break your business. Food safety and traceability go hand in hand. If a business does not follow safety protocols, spoiled or tainted food can end up in the hands of the consumer, the outcome being dissatisfaction, loss of the customers and income, and possibly sickness or injury to the end user. Even worse is potential damage to your brand and reputation; food recalls are very newsworthy! When public health is involved, responsible governments and regulating bodies take an interest in the methods used to produce food in their regions and your ability to follow their recommendations will rely on the tools and practices you put in place.
In some industries, food traceability is so important that if the business cannot satisfy regulations, it will not be granted permits or licenses required to conduct business.
What is a traceability system?
Food traceability is the process of tracking a food product from source to end customer. A good traceability system will allow you to perform a search by product or lot number to see the source of all ingredients (backwards trace), and to see where they have been shipped (forward trace), enabling a speedy recall, if required.
Expiration dates can be tied to each product or lot number so when product is past its due date, it can be removed from the production chain.
When a tainted product from a supplier needs to be traced, whether currently in production at your facilities, in transit, or distributed to the end customer, the business can quickly trace the problematic products, and recall the affected batches, rather than recall everything that has been produced and distributed within the given time frame.
Ultimately, traceability saves money, helps retain customers and protects the public’s health.
When consumers have confidence that the matter is being properly addressed and remedied and that contaminated product has been contained or recalled, fear subsides, and they will resume normal consumption quickly.
There are many stakeholders involved in food production:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
State and region-specific regulators
In the food sector, consumer confidence is key. Trust in the brand is everything. Recalls will happen. How you manage them makes all the difference. Having a great, simple-to-use traceability system will allow you to quickly identify the affected products, and to recall those and only those, speedily and without drama.
While our initial thought is to keep quiet about the recall, history has shown that honesty is the best policy if you are to maintain trust in your brand. If you have a fully integrated traceability and stock system, you can react quickly and with confidence, and that will be apparent to your customers. Relying on spreadsheets and pen and paper is not good enough.
What is backwards and forwards traceability?
Backwards tracing means tracing back to the source of the product, to find the contaminated ingredient or product. Forwards tracing means looking forward to see everywhere that contaminated batch has been used, containing the scope of your recall.
SOS Inventory gives food manufacturers the ability to track down batches of products quickly and effectively to review all actions taken related to those products at each stage.
Ingredients provided by an international supply chain follow that country’s protocols, yet those foreign standards may not be as stringent as your local regulator’s. The ability to act quickly should a problem be discovered is essential for public safety and the future of your business. When a food borne illness arises and is publicized by the media, you must have the ability to resolve the problem, and be seen to resolve the problem, speedily.
Food traceability is central to risk management and lowering liability costs. For your business to grow and thrive, consumers must have confidence in your brand and quality.
SOS Inventory’s food traceability functionality is pivotal to managing lots and batches, forward and backward tracing and controlling products at every stage of the food chain. With the right tools, you can be better prepared to allay problems and set the stage for future prosperity.