Not too long ago, a major U.S. grocery store chain launched a recall of frozen vegetables that was determined to be contaminated. They were produced by a popular manufacturer. The breach was discovered in test samples that grew after the product was released to the market. Both the retailer and supplier announced that the recall process was initiated to minimize any potential health hazard to consumers. The frozen vegetable manufacturer properly communicated the issue to their retailer and supplier, but what else can be done when managing recalls?
What Can Be Done to Prevent a Recall?
Globally, regulations are changing and becoming stricter with the primary goals of minimizing compromised foods entering the market and keeping the public safe. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is being strongly enforced in the United States, which was designed to be a proactive mechanism rather than reactive. In Europe, Asia-Pacific and other regions, governing health organizations have similar regulations in place. The goal is to prevent issues from occurring and, if they do happen, catch them before they reach the consumer to minimize any threat to consumer safety.
Though, as with any issue of society, rules, regulations and preventative measures from governing bodies only go so far. Ultimately, the responsibility, with regard to food safety, lies on the players involved in the recall scenario. The manufacturer, their suppliers, retailers and all other participants in the distribution process have the responsibility to ensure food safety. The consumer is demanding it now more than ever, and it is dictating what regulations are put in place for future recalls. Recalls are going to happen and should happen when warranted to keep the public safe. Given today’s complex supply chain and the number of physical product touch points, breaches will occur. It’s almost unavoidable.
Improving Recall Tracking and Traceability Plans
Improving the processes and practices of all organizations and steps involved in the production of food is a start, and so is integrating all involved players in the food chain together.
There are a number of processes that need to be in place as well as systems to manage these processes. The supply chain, as well as the value chain, should be the focal point. There are a number of components to consider:
- Suppliers (Farmers, processors, growers, etc.)
- Supplier Transportation Partners
- Manufacturing and Operations (Intermediate Storage)
- Transportation to Customers (Retailers, etc)
- Delivery to Consumers
These are all the major touch points that any item and/or material involved in the manufacturing of food and beverage products will go through during its lifecycle. Each of these steps should have designated and documented processes to ensure safety. A comprehensive, adaptive ERP system that can adapt to changing market and evolving supply chain conditions can assist tremendously with managing each step of the process and ensure communication throughout the supply chain. Should a breach occur, all finished products and intermediate products are lot coded and have license plating standards to better track where a breach might have occurred.
Advanced technologies provide manufacturers with many tools to adapt to changing business situations, especially in the food and beverage industry. A manufacturer needs to be able to respond quickly to issues and provide themselves, retailers, the public and government regulators all the necessary information needed to remove breached product from the marketplace. In addition, a comprehensive and adaptive enterprise management system will synchronize the steps and processes throughout the field to fork movement of food products to minimize breaches.
Improving Recall Management
Compliance is challenging. In today’s competitive environment, and with the strong emphasis on regulations, breaches in food safety can incur fines and threaten a company’s brand and reputation. Many other entities can be impacted as well as the retailer, including any organization that assists in the distribution of the products.
Implementing specialized ERP solutions to provide a centralized system for managing all the critical elements of the supply and value chains is the place to start for food and beverage manufacturers. Having an adaptive ERP solution that can perform efficient plant maintenance, food safety, traceability and recall procedures will help minimize the costs of a recall, and enable food and beverage manufacturers to become agile, effective enterprises.