With today’s complex food supply chain caused by changing industry processes and the consumer demand for foreign foods, tracing products effectively is more critical than ever for food safety and quality, and more challenging. However, the industry is struggling to find an effective traceability system that would keep up with high production speeds. Flexible and modular traceability technology can solve this problem and help food manufacturers improve their processes, supply chain efficiency, emergency recall plan, without becoming a burden for production efficiency
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Food traceability refers to the systems that trace the flow of food through the food supply chain, including through production, processing, and distribution, and make it possible to locate a product at any stage of the food supply chain. Food traceability is important for a variety of reasons. The affected stakeholders are:
When a food risk is identified, it is important that authorities and businesses are able to trace the risk to its source so that they can prevent the affected products from being sold to consumers. Food traceability minimizes disruption to trade by facilitating targeted product recalls and allowing brands to provide consumers with accurate information. During a product recall, the contaminated products are quickly located based on a serial number or batch number. With an effective traceability system in place, they can also be traced back through the food supply chain to figure out where the problem originated.
When it comes to emergency food product recalls, food traceability helps in the following ways:
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Food fraud is a global issue that affects all consumers. It endangers their health by contaminating food products and sidestepping health and safety regulations. As food supply chains become more complex, for example, by using more ingredients and crossing the supply chains of multiple countries, the potential for food fraud increases. The World Health Organization estimates that 600 million people globally suffer from a foodborne disease as a result of consuming a contaminated product. In addition to being a safety issue, food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry over $50 billion each year.
Not all food fraud is the same, but it is all potentially dangerous. The most common kinds of food fraud are:
Lowering the quality of food products by adding another substance to increase its volume. A well-known example is when melamine was found in Chinese infant formula in 2008, resulting in the deaths of six babies and the hospitalisation of around 54,0001. 1www.theguardian.com/world/2008/dec/02/china
Replacing a food product with a similar, less expensive product. For example, in a 2013 scandal, horse meat was packaged and sold as beef23. 2www.zeit.de/wissen/umwelt/2013-02/faq-pferdefleisch 3www.bbc.com/news/uk-21375594
Diverting items from their intended usage. An example of this is spoiled food or waste products being used in products for human consumption.
Marketing a product as something other than what it is. For example, claiming that a product came from a different geographic location. This is a concern for seafood products in particular.
Selling a product under a brand name to which said product does not belong. Products sold by luxury food brands are a target for this type of food fraud.
With food fraud rising at an alarming speed, governments and food manufacturers alike start recognizing the benefits and developing own Track and Trace systems. The global seafood industry, for instance, is now looking to create an adequate traceability scheme to prevent illegally sourced fish from entering seafood markets. To achieve this, an interoperable electronic system will trace the movement of fish through all supply chain touchpoints, from landing to retail.
Since the traceability of food products is so critical, their traceability system must be accurate and complete. A food traceability system should be able to identify where a food product and its components were manufactured, packaged, and stocked, meaning that every stop on the supply chain has to get involved.
Today, food manufacturers are expected to be able to:
Additionally, a food traceability system must record and be able to identify information such as: raw materials, additives, ingredients, volume, quantity, weight, dimensions and expiry date.
Manufacturers must label products with unique identification codes that contain this information.
Additional regulations apply to specific sectors of food products, such as beef, seafood, honey, and olive oil. These foods are often targeted for food fraud, so the requirements are intended to help consumers verify the authenticity and origins of products.
There are also unique traceability rules for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to ensure that the GM content of a product can be traced. Accurate labeling must be used so that consumers can make informed choices about whether or not to buy genetically modified products.
Within the European Union, the General Food Law Regulation has established criteria for making sure that only safe food products make it onto the market. This includes the EU’s General Food Law of 2002, which made traceability mandatory for all food and animal feed businesses. Businesses must be able to identify their products‘ origins and destinations and make this information available to authorities.
In the United States, two main FDA regulations deal with food traceability: the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 and the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA).
The Bioterrorism Act requires that each facility along the food supply chain be able to identify where a product came from as well as where it is going next, in what is called a “one step forward, one step back” traceability requirement.
The FSMA was introduced to expand upon the Bioterrorism Act by mandating the establishment and implementation of food safety systems in food supply chain facilities. This includes measures to prevent food product emergencies and a recall plan.
Traceability in the food industry is achieved through a Track and Trace system that includes a hardware solution and an appropriate IT infrastructure to enable product data transfer. In essence, product traceability rests on the following pillars:
A traceability system is often implemented to enable anti-counterfeiting protection of products through securing product packaging. It provides a significant competitive advantage by minimizing the instances of mislabeling and therefore enhancing customer trust and loyalty. But just as importantly, an effective traceability system enables agile and efficient recall management, more control over a stock situation and enhanced production control.
Serialization of food products means assigning unique codes to food products. Serialization makes it easier for both retailers and consumers to identify and track original products, increasing consumer confidence.
Some countries, including South Korea, are starting to include serialization codes on food packaging. This enables manufacturers, retailers, and consumers to trace products easily from their origin, through the food supply chain, all the way to sales. It is predicted that serialization in the food industry will increase within the next few years to minimize the impact of food scandals and to increase consumer safety and brand transparency.
Aggregation is an integral part of traceability in the food industry because it gives every step in the food supply chain the same information, making sure that there is only one source of truth. It allows food manufacturers to trace their products from production by maintaining parent-child relationships between the levels of food packaging. Here’s how it works:
A hardware solution can consist of different OEM modules to be integrated into an existing packaging line equipment. OEM hardware is flexible, and so it can be adapted to a variety of different products and packaging formats, and it also saves space on the production floor. In its basic form, an OEM solution can consist of separate modules, such as coding, inspection and verification components that can be built into an already existing packaging equipment.
TQS-VIO3 camera for layer-by-layer reading of full surface data at case-packing level
Thermal transfer printer (TTO) for shipment carton labels
TQS-VIO S verifies shipment carton labels
Wireless handheld scanner incl. integrated control panel with industrial scale thermal transfer printer for labels
Traceability IT architecture should be designed to streamline traceability data exchange internally (i.e. on the company level) and externally (i. e. between supply chain partners). A traceability system makes sure that all parties along the food supply chain, have the same information about the products. Food traceability enables food manufacturers to track a product or batch as it moves between processing, storage, and distribution, with new information recorded at each stage of the product flow.
As ingredients and products come from suppliers and are processed and distributed, a traceability system records and traces their path. It should include procedures for identifying producers, suppliers, distributors, and products. Additionally, the system can gather and record information about product ingredients, quality, origins, quantity, and labels.
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With TQS, we provide flexible and scalable Track and Trace solutions for a diverse range of products and packaging formats. All TQS systems include advanced features to serialize and enable anti-counterfeit protection of food packaging without imposing an additional burden on production efficiency. Ease of operation and user-friendly design are at the core of TQS solutions.
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