It has been said that there are no trag- edies, just facts not recognized in time. This certainly relates to food safety,
where delays in knowing the facts can
indeed lead to bad consequences, human
and corporate, as we have seen from
recent events. I’m thinking specifically of
the Blue Bell Creameries ice cream recall,
something that should have all food
manufacturers taking a very close look at
their track and trace technology.
In food safety, there are two primary
concerns: prevention and response.
Part of prevention is being prepared.
The first Blue Bell recall resulted from
a product that had gone into the foodservice channel at a hospital in Kansas.
Shortly after the initial recall, other inci-
dents of Listeria contamination emerged,
and it was discovered that the problem
was happening in multiple Blue Bell
plants. Because of the expanded scope,
Blue Bell ended up recalling all of its
In hindsight, a sophisticated track and
trace system may have helped mitigate
the problem. As the name indicates, the
“track” function happens as things occur,
“trace” after they have occurred. An
effective system executes both functions.
The Benefits of Track
When manufacturers consider track
and trace systems, they typically think
about the reaction to a problem; but these
Track and Trace Technology Yields
Benefits for Food Manufacturers
By Jack Payne, Ross ERP Product Manager, Aptean
systems can also help prevent problems from occurring. A good track
and trace system records accurate information in a timely manner.
The best way to do that is through some type of automated data col-
lection. Barcode scanning is the most popular method.
One of the most common reasons for a food recall is mislabeled
products. Either an incorrect label is applied or an allergen was
introduced into a product as a substitute ingredient and not listed on
the product label. By having a track and trace system in place and
recording information in a timely manner, many of these incidents
can be avoided.
Consider salad dressing. Production may attempt to use a substitute ingredient that has a soy allergen, due to a stock shortage, but
the operator may not be aware of this fact. As he tries to scan the
ingredient into the mix, the track and trace system prevents it from
being added. So in addition to track and trace responding after the
fact — connecting all the dots in the supply chain — it can also prevent problems from occurring at the point of manufacture.
Other examples of the benefits of this process include:
• Preventing release of a product not passed by quality control or
not having gone through all requisite testing
• Ensuring accurate shelf-life by verifying that product going into
distribution channels has adequate shelf-life from the point of
A track and trace system shouldn’t be a “tack on” system; rather,
it needs to be integrated into the manufacturing process. A separate system that is bolted on creates significant concerns, principal