Traceability helps firms prevent, recover from foodborne illness


The recent salmonella egg scare is just the latest in a string of food-related illnesses linked to contamination. In 2006, E. coli found in spinach left 205 people sick and took three lives. In March 2007, pet food tainted with melamine was responsible for kidney failure in nearly 500 pets, leaving hundreds of cats and dogs dead.

More than 76 million illnesses are caused by food contamination every year in the United States. The ability to trace ingredients, parts and lots to the source is essential to food safety in the food manufacturing industry.

Food manufacturers today depend on only a few large food companies as customers. Rising costs of raw materials, heightened consumer awareness of food safety, and strict government regulations mean increased competition and lower profit margins for food manufacturers. This means that company profitability depends on efficient operations.

Manufacturers must either accept lower profit margins, or increase efficiency and decrease costs. Raising prices is no longer an option to fix falling profit margins. Today’s food manufacturers must be able to ensure brand protection – no processor or distributor wants the bad reputation associated with selling a tainted product. Customers are likely to stray from brands known for bad quality.

Luckily, the same systems that ensure food safety can also be used to streamline operations. These systems utilize automated traceability. Traceability allows for mock food recalls. Food companies conduct these recalls on a quarterly basis to ensure that a real recall will run smoothly. Even one failed mock recall may result in a customer switching to another supplier.

For many food processors, the current challenge is to find a solution to traceability that is both cost-effective and a good fit for their current business operations.

Companies like SYSPRO provide powerful lot and serial tracking functionality which provides the at-a-glance “source to sale” tracking required by the food industry.

The advantages of an automated production tracking system are significant:

Instant traceability

  • Provides end-to-end traceability for every action that can impact food, starting with orders placed with suppliers and ending with the receipt of finished goods.
  • At any point in the supply chain, a food processor can trace back to the source of ingredients, or forward to the final product.


  • With instant traceability, food processors can gain the confidence of customers, auditors and regulatory inspectors.
  • By establishing confidence among these people, processors can establish a competitive advantage that can add real, measurable value to the business.

Better bottom-line performance

  • Food processors have the ability to improve the financial performance of the company.
  • Detailed visibility into product line costs, manufacturing efficiency, inventory spoilage and other operational metrics can expose hidden opportunities for improvement.

Thanks to automated tracking systems, the source of contaminated pet food in 2007 was traced back to wheat gluten in Wangdien, China. Companies were then able to quickly identify and pull the affected items off store shelves and prevent any of the remaining stock from ever leaving warehouses. In the end, fast and efficient recalls helped assure pet owners that their furry friends were safe from the risk of coming into contact with the contaminated packages.

Automated traceability systems must not detract from the flow of the supply chain, which is why a system like SYSPRO Barcoding Solutions is important. Items must be linked from source to destination. This is best accomplished by real-time recording of lot numbers at the source, along with the quantity actually purchased or consumed at the destination.

According to studies, entering barcode data is at least 100 times faster and more accurate than traditional keyboard entry, producing a dramatic increase in efficiency and productivity. As a result, barcoding can eliminate the need for additional warehouse staff and yield tremendous returns in a short period of time.

Remember, the ability to provide the right product at the right time is vital to success in the food industry. Technological solutions can assist manufacturers to deliver high-quality products and enable companies to manage major recalls when foodborne crisis hits.

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