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What We Don’t Know Is Hurting Us: Bringing Tech to Traceability in Food Manufacturing

An overview of the importance of traceability in food manufacturing and how technology plays a crucial role in unlocking visibility to key stakeholders.
-SafetyChain Software

The number of multi-state outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in 2021 was higher than in 2020. In 2020, the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA listed 31 individual recalls that totaled close to 1.5 million pounds of food for reasons ranging from undeclared allergens to extraneous material. Whether dealing with products moving from farms, mixed together in processing facilities, or assembled from ingredients sourced in several dozen different locations, responding to foodborne illness outbreaks and recalls can be a frustratingly muddy process due to a lack of traceability.

The need to trace foods and ingredients along each step of the chain back to the source is more vital than ever. Are your products fully traceable? 

A Problem of Scale. Traceability in the food manufacturing industry is inconsistent and difficult for many manufacturers for various reasons, but one of the most commonly cited is scale. For instance, a producer that is putting bags of baby spinach on the shelf is often mixing product sourced from various farms that may be in different states or even in different countries. Far too often, tracking contamination of any kind requires intense detective work or, sadly, sometimes a best guess.

Sometimes the contamination is not from the field. Problems also arise due to faulty machinery, issues with transit, packaging errors or any other of several points. The scale of food distribution creates a complex web that inspectors must attempt to navigate as quickly as possible. Because time is of the essence, regulators will often make the call to sweep up large swaths of product out of an abundance of caution. These sweeping recalls result in considerable impacts to profit for manufacturers and may still not catch the source of contamination.

Making Food Traceability Work. Although some manufacturers already exceed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) standards, many still struggle to meet them. Rather than targeting FSMA standards simply for compliance, there is a solid case to make for proactively implementing traceability programs. Software programs can make traceability cloud-based and centralized and include several cost-effective benefits, including:

  • Paperless tracking and time savings, allowing manufacturers to manage those resources more effectively.
  • Real-time risk monitoring for flexible and timely decision-making.
  • The ability to pinpoint the source of the contamination with precision, avoiding unnecessary product recall.

Having software to assist in this complex process can be vital to gaining a comprehensive view of the entire supply chain. 

Revealing Every Link in the Food Chain. Both customers and governing bodies are asking for greater visibility of each link in the food supply chain. Incorporating centralized software that tracks every supplier and ingredient source is crucial to developing a transparent system. Broad-stroke recalls are costly and wasteful. As industry watchers grow more concerned about sustainability, the ability to accurately pinpoint the specific origin of a contamination problem is instrumental in maintaining trust and compliance. 

ABOUT SAFETYCHAIN. SafetyChain is a leading plant management platform that improves yield, maximizes productivity, and ensures compliance for process manufacturers. Trusted by over 1,500 facilities, the SafetyChain enterprise solution unites production, quality, safety, and supplier management.

Tiffany Donica

Tiffany Donica

FSQA Solutions Architect, SafetyChain Software