Grieg Codd highlights how food businesses must keep on their traceability toes.
While not quite reaching the same infamous heights of 2013’s horsemeat scandal, the recent furore over the Fipronil-contaminated eggs highlights how food and beverage businesses have no room to be complacent when it comes to traceability capabilities and recall strategies. With approximately 700,000 contaminated eggs having landed on UK shores, with millions more reaching 15 other EU countries, as well as Hong Kong and Switzerland, the far-reaching consequences of traceability failures are clear for all to see. This is particularly true for food manufacturers for whom the ability to demonstrate full, effective traceability procedures across the supply chain is now a prerequisite for doing business with many major retailers, with such retail businesses demanding that their suppliers share the financial burden of the loss of profits and associated costs that product recalls entail.
EU regulation 178/2002 might require every food and beverage business in the EU and those bringing products into the Europe to have a traceability and recall system in place, but it doesn’t specify how effective this system needs to be. And, what were robust end-to-end traceability and product recall capabilities a few years ago, might not cut the mustard today, with technological advances often outpacing the rate at which food and beverage business systems evolve. With this in mind, food manufacturers need to continuously evaluate their recall strategies and traceability procedures with a view to achieving that all-important BRC grade-A accreditation for traceability as soon as the need arises.
As with a great deal of manufacturing processes and procedures in 2017, technology is a crucial lever for achieving the necessary levels of traceability across the supply chain. When it comes to batch traceability and recalls in particular, manual processes just aren’t good enough, proving too slow as well as too lightweight, with an inability to delve into the granular levels of details that are part and parcel of food manufacturing. The pressing need to follow ingredients and products through all stages of the manufacturing process, from receipt through to final despatch, simply can’t be carried out effectively without technology. The immediate insight that an effective traceability system requires just can’t be achieved manually.
With the right ERP system, it can provide clear, easily searchable documentation and digital records, which detail not only individual product batches, but also batches of ingredients coming into a particular processing facility. In combination with the ability to carry out a bottom-up / top-down analysis, this enables food businesses to quickly and successfully determine the breadth of a problem as soon as a potential flaw is flagged, providing the immediate insight that’s required for timely, efficient traceability.
A good, up-to-date ERP system not only guarantees an effective product recall but it ensures legal compliance, ultimately lessening a business’ exposure to risk, increasing its appeal to larger retail customers and protecting its bottom line. It’s only with the right solution in place that food manufacturers can guarantee the visibility over ingredients, products and processes at every step of the supply chain that’s necessary to carry out swift and comprehensive product recalls. However, what worked four years ago might not be the most competent solution today. Having recognised the benefits that optimum traceability processes can bring, savvy food manufacturers make it their business to evaluate their own traceability procedures on an ongoing basis, guaranteeing their ability to carry out products recalls quickly with utmost efficiency and paving the way for future business growth.
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