From production to distribution, traceability technologies make it possible to identify and validate various stages of the food supply chain. These systems are crucially important in the global food trade due to the diversified origins of ingredients and the multi-ingredient formulas many food producers rely on.
Several trends have been pushing for higher adoption rates of traceability technologies. For starters, consumers are becoming much more conscious about the choices they make. Standardization and legislative frameworks within the food sector have also contributed to a growing need for the adoption of reliable traceability solutions. As a result, the food traceability market is anticipated to reach 14 billion dollars in 2019 and continue expanding at a high CAGR in the years to come.
While food traceability technology is incredibly important, there are still numerous assumptions and myths circulating about the capabilities of these technologies. Most myths focus on the ways in which companies handle the data and the potential food recalls resulting from it.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at some of the most common myths and false assumptions about the ways in which innovative technology has impacted food recalls.
A food recall is indicative of money loss. This is why many people assume companies will recall solely affected products and ingredients to diminish the negative financial impact.
This is an over-simplified view of reality.
Companies will respond quickly in the event of a food traceability issue because they don’t want to scare away customers and prospects.
Many people will hear about a problem but they’ll have no idea about the product line affected. As a result, entire brands have been removed from the market. In July 2018, for example, four flavors of Goldfish crackers were removed from the market over salmonella concerns. While no illness cases were reported, the company announced all four flavors will be taken off the shelves “out of abundance of caution.”
This may seem like a logical assumption, but it once again relies on a rather simplistic view of reality.
More than 90 percent of foodborne illnesses take place within restaurant environments, banquet facilities, catering service providers, schools, nursing homes, etc. While the data goes back several years, it still shows how misguided consumers can be.
Almost 60 percent of the illnesses are caused by norovirus infections and norovirus originates from sick food handlers. Workplace negligence and a failure to adhere to the strictest hygienic practices could easily contribute to contamination.
As of November 2018, there had been 22 outbreaks over the year investigated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This was the highest number of food-related contamination investigations taking place over the past 12 years. As surprising as this may seem, technology is probably contributing to the bigger number of investigations and recalls. The reason is simple – new technologies make it easier to identify pathogens and link them back to a specific point of origin. This is obviously a good thing and it does result from enhanced traceability.
It doesn’t really matter whether food has traveled thousands of miles or just a few blocks to reach your table.
Big companies are typically held to a higher standard than small local producers.
Media reports increase awareness about issues and you’re much more likely to hear about a contamination problem and a resulting recall in the case of a large corporation. This isn’t the case with small local producers.
Larger international corporations typically employ some form of traceability technology. Consumers will be warned about a safety issue in due time, which cannot be guaranteed in the case of smaller farms or food manufacturers within a local community.
As media focus on food manufacturing issues and consumer awareness increase, companies and regulators must maintain a steady focus on food safety.
Contemporary communication channels have also contributed to the real-time provision of information. The CDC, for example, provides updates about ongoing investigations via Twitter and Facebook. As a result, companies simply can’t afford to be careless, as a massive reputation loss will quickly contribute to the loss of clients.
While companies have to address demand, safety concerns trump all revenue generation plans. The recall of Honey Smacks Cereal is just one example. A salmonella outbreak was linked to the product, which is why the cereal remained off the shelf for over four months. Reintroduction has only begun, and Kellogg’s is doing so in limited quantities due to a change in recipe and a change in the production facility. Thus, it’s easy to see that companies aren’t careless and safety indeed does come first.
Existing technologies haven’t made it possible yet to eradicate contamination altogether. Traceability solutions, however, enable the quick pinpointing of the source and the introduction of adequate measures to curb the issue.
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