The tremendous amount of resources that go into bringing a product to market can be eclipsed by the costs of an unforeseen recall.

While advances in preventative measures have greatly enhanced food safety over the past decades, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported 150 recalls totaling approximately 21 million pounds of recalled product in 2015 alone.

Although we may be far from a time when recalls are no longer necessary, greater awareness of technologies and practices that can aid in fast, cost-efficient recalls ensures that companies can quickly remove compromised product from shelves. It also assures consumers that companies are taking the necessary safety measures.

Track and trace

When adulterated or misbranded products emerge, the first initiative of food processors is to locate and eradicate the recalled products by utilizing coding and serialization generated and archived through track and trace systems.

In fact, as indicated by the 2016 State of the Industry U.S. Packaging Machinery Report by PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, the labeling, decorating, coding and case handling machinery categories are expected to see more growth than all other machinery types through 2020.

This increase in coding machinery demonstrates how the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is driving more food and beverage processors to integrate track and trace solutions into their supply chains.

Although implementing a track and trace system while satisfying FDA guidelines can be costly, PMMI recommended in its 2016 Brand Protection and Product Traceability Market Research Report that companies should begin their journey toward full traceability in small bites.

By introducing track and trace in one area of the supply chain and gradually increasing the scope over time, food companies can eventually trace their entire supply chain.

Practice makes perfect

To prepare for worst-case scenarios, some food companies are putting their systems to the test by initiating a mock product recall. In fact, PMMI’s brand protection report indicated that the majority of food industry leaders interviewed last year introduced mock recalls into their overall preparedness strategy.

By having a tested track and trace system, food companies can rest assured that they can quickly and efficiently locate and report recalled products by using date and location codes. Therefore, food companies can ensure a faster recall.

Recalls, crisis trends, and the global track and trace supply chain

Food manufacturers can expect several global trends to influence track and trace equipment and ultimately simplify product recalls. As the international database of product serialization continues to grow, a globally adopted and standardized track and trace system will likely need to be implemented to limit the scope of recalls and reduce response time, according to PMMI’s brand protection report. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and food manufacturers alike should keep track and trace standardization in mind as they innovate and implement new equipment into their supply chain. Although this may seem like an enormous undertaking, the benefits of a standardized global track and trace system will reduce time, costs and efforts in the recall process.

Speed is of the essence in today’s marketplace. Information travels at a rapid clip along social media channels and consumer disappointment can dominate the discussion around a recall if companies do not move fast enough to stay ahead of the issue.

It is critical that food manufacturers have a well-prepared communications plan as part of their recall strategy. Having a thoughtful message ready for release across various communication channels will enable companies to address a recall, false information or the presence of counterfeit products in the market in a transparent and proactive way rather than seeming reactive, panicked or defensive.

Machinery upgrades and education await at inaugural ProFood Tech 

Before investing in the proper track and trace technologies, food and beverage companies will have to do their due diligence to be certain they are acquiring the most cost-effective track and trace solutions for their supply chain.

At the upcoming inaugural ProFood Tech (McCormick Place, Chicago; April 4–6, 2017) powered by global trade show leaders PACK EXPO, Anuga and the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), food and beverage manufacturers can network with industry professionals and gain critical insight into preventing and managing recalls.

For instance, on Monday, April 3 the Pre-Conference Workshop, Recall Ready? Managing Recalls and Protecting Your Brand (8 p.m. – 5 p.m.) will provide educational opportunities for attendees on how to properly manage an FDA or USDA recall.

Food and beverage industry experts will review the essentials of a food product recall as well as a company’s rights and responsibilities, liabilities and ultimately managing consumer expectations and the media.

For more information or to register, visit

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