Tag Archives: Food Traceability

Food Safety Technology Can Protect Businesses from Recalls and Other Risks

By Colin Rose, Patricia Baxter
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Recalls represent one of the largest threats to a food company’s profitability and reputation. In recent years, technology solutions such as cloud-based software have been introduced to better prepare and safeguard businesses.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 300 food products were recalled last year, representing a significant 31% increase compared with 2022. The reasons behind recalls vary and include food containing contaminated items such as metal or plastic, exposure to pathogens and undeclared allergens on product labels. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year, roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick from foodborne diseases. Recalls represent one of the largest threats to a food company’s profitability and reputation. In recent years, technology solutions such as cloud-based software have been introduced to better prepare and safeguard businesses.

Supply Chain Connectivity

Despite advances in technology, many food manufacturers and processors still rely on manual tools and management across their supply chains. Manual systems can result in major issues during a crisis, including errors in inputting or updating data and miscommunication, such as being unable to quickly reach multiple vendors and suppliers at a given time.

Proper and comprehensive supply chain management is critical to food safety. In the instance of a recall, businesses must be able to quickly activate their recall management plan, disseminating important information both up and down the supply chain while documenting to meet certification and regulatory requirements. It’s key that all suppliers – local, national and international – demonstrate that they are compliant with all relevant food and market regulations. Product source information must also be tracked and searchable in records.

Robust and proactive document control can help an organization avoid recalls by quickly identifying risky suppliers or non-compliant ingredients.

Innovative Solutions Support Recalls

Several new technologies are being employed to support greater traceability and transparency across the food supply chain. With cybersecurity attacks now being a risk that can result in product recalls, more companies are investing in information security solutions to further protect their data. Certifications to standards such as ISO/IEC 27001, which has requirements for establishing, managing and maintaining an information security management system help businesses to demonstrate that they follow an international standard for managing security controls. This can provide an added level of assurance that cybersecurity risks have been identified and safeguarded.

Some companies are now using RFID to tag and track food items. QR codes and bar codes can be scanned on easily accessible devices such as smartphones and tablets, providing instant access to records to ensure traceability.

Cloud-based software also allows companies to manage complex and critical data more confidently. NSF TraQtion® is a new software solution that directs suppliers to an online portal to upload documents, complete questionnaires and communicate. Beyond supplier data, cloud-based software can also be used for recipe management and storage, tracking complaints, label compliance and setting company-wide standards. By simplifying and digitizing data, documents and records collection, leaders can instantly access information during audits and assessments, allowing for quick delivery when program documentation is requested or required.

If not properly and swiftly handled, a recall or outbreak can cost a business tens of thousands of dollars or more. By using cloud-based technology to put an easily accessible and implementable risk management plan in place, businesses can be better prepared for a food safety incident. Overall, software can minimize back-and-forth messaging, urgent data requests, meetings and calls by digitizing and streamlining both communication and documentation.

How to Select the Right Tech Solutions

When preparing for a potential recall, it’s important to be proactive. Start with identifying the pain points in the organization’s risk management plan and then see if there are tools that can be used to strengthen the plan and address its weaknesses. While some tools may require greater investment, this can pay off in the long run when you consider how detrimental recalls can be.

As we look at recalls and technology solutions, we must acknowledge that the requirement for full compliance to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) 204 rule is January 20, 2026. For those applicable, technology will play a major role in the FDA’s recordkeeping requirements and 24-hour turnaround of an electronic, sortable spreadsheet for traceability of products. In most cases, with larger-scale operations, this can only happen with the utilization of new and emerging software.

The goal of technology implementation is to create a more sustainable food system. With earlier identification and traceability of adulterated products, the removal and retrieval process from commerce will be faster and, in turn, should result in a decrease of incidents reducing illness and potential deaths.

Digital solutions will also help to fill the gaps for root cause investigations, thus more efficiently allowing for enhanced preventative actions and training to avoid recurrence. While onboarding of new technology can sometimes be costly, over time, the ROI of reduced recalls and product losses can increase revenue gains and negate the initial investment.

Food is a global commodity, and advancing technology and innovations in system processes can help move the supply chain forward in delivering safe, quality consumable products around the world. Now is the time to lead the industry forward for a safer, more sustainable future for both companies and consumers. We must invest in technology solutions within our food supply chain to continue advancing human and planet health.

Food Traceability and Authentication in the AI Era

By Maria-Eleni Dimitrakopoulou
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Food traceability provides comprehensive information about a product’s history and origin, facilitating efficient recalls and supply chain management. However, distinct types of food fraud, such as concealment, counterfeit, and mislabelling, pose significant challenges. The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and new regulatory measures, like the FDA’s traceability rule, enhance food safety and authenticity, fostering a more transparent and reliable food supply chain.

In the intricate web of the global food supply chain, ensuring the safety and authenticity of consumables stands as a paramount concern. Food traceability, defined as the ability to provide comprehensive information about the history and origin of a product throughout its journey, emerges as a cornerstone in this endeavour. This meticulous documentation not only facilitates supply chain management but also empowers swift actions such as recalls in the event of safety or quality breaches.

Beyond its logistical benefits, food traceability assumes a pivotal role in safeguarding consumer interests. By serving as a fundamental component of food safety and quality assurance, traceability ensures transparency and accountability at every stage of production and distribution. However, the efficacy of a traceability system is inherently tied to the credibility of its origins, paving the way for the convergence of food traceability and authentication.

Unveiling the Shadows: The Challenge of Food Adulteration

In an era plagued by instances of food adulteration and mislabelling, the imperative for robust authentication mechanisms becomes increasingly apparent. Reports from international and national research bodies shed light on a myriad of cases spanning various food categories, from wine and spirits to olive oil, fish, meat, and beyond. This pervasive challenge underscores the need for stringent standards and regulatory frameworks to combat fraudulence and uphold consumer trust.

Food fraud manifests in several forms, each presenting unique challenges for detection and prevention. For example:

  • Concealment involves hiding inferior or harmful ingredients within a product to avoid detection. An example of this is the addition of melamine in milk to falsely increase protein content readings, which led to a major scandal in China.
  • Counterfeit products replicate and sell a product under the guise of a well-known brand, often with substandard quality. These fake products can range from everyday items like bottled water to high-end goods like wines and spirits. Counterfeiting not only deceives consumers but also damages brand reputations and violates intellectual property rights.
  • Botanical Authentication ensures that plant-based products are derived from the claimed species and not substituted with cheaper alternatives. This is particularly important for products like herbal supplements, teas, and spices. For instance, saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world, is often adulterated with less expensive substances such as dyed corn stigmas or safflower.
  • Geographical Origin fraud involves misrepresenting the region from which a product originates. Certain regions are known for producing specific high-quality foods and beverages, such as Champagne from France or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from Italy. Mislabelling products to benefit from these reputations deceives consumers and undermines genuine producers.
  • Substitution entails replacing a high-value ingredient with a lower-cost one. This is common in products like olive oil, honey, and seafood. For example, extra virgin olive oil might be diluted with cheaper oils, or expensive fish species like tuna might be replaced with less costly ones like escolar. This not only cheats consumers but can also pose health risks.
  • Mislabelling involves incorrectly listing ingredients or nutritional information on labels. An example is claiming a product is organic when it is not.
  • Dilution involves adding water or other substances to increase the volume of a product. For instance, diluting fruit juices with water and not declaring it.
  • Unapproved Enhancements involve using unauthorized substances to enhance the appearance or quality of a product. An example is adding unauthorized dyes to make a product look fresher or more appealing.
  • Theft and Resale refers to stealing products and reintroducing them into the market through unauthorized channels. For example, reselling stolen goods without proper storage conditions.
  • Artificial Additives involves using artificial ingredients to mimic the qualities of a natural product. For example, adding synthetic vanilla flavor instead of natural vanilla extraction

The New Traceability Rule of FDA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has introduced a new traceability rule aimed at enhancing the ability to trace the origin of foods throughout the supply chain more efficiently. This rule mandates that companies maintain more rigorous records of their supply chains, focusing on high-risk foods. The implementation of this rule is expected to significantly improve the speed and accuracy of traceability in the event of a foodborne illness outbreak or contamination incident, thus ensuring faster recalls and reducing the risk to public health.

The Dawn of a New Era: Advancements in Food Fraud

As the spectre of food fraud looms large, there arises an urgent demand for sophisticated analytical techniques to authenticate foodstuffs with precision and reliability. Here, the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) heralds a new era of innovation. AI-driven algorithms can sift through vast datasets, identifying patterns and anomalies that elude traditional methods. Machine learning models can analyse complex chemical compositions, flagging deviations indicative of adulteration or mislabelling. By harnessing the power of AI, authorities can fortify their efforts in safeguarding consumer interests and preserving the integrity of the global food market.

Charting the Course Ahead: Toward a Safer, More Authentic Future

In the pursuit of food safety and quality, the symbiotic relationship between traceability and fraud, bolstered by AI technologies, emerges as a beacon of hope. By fortifying supply chain transparency and deploying cutting-edge analytical methods, stakeholders can navigate the complexities of the modern food landscape with confidence and integrity. The integration of the FDA’s new traceability rule further strengthens this endeavour, ensuring a safer and more reliable food supply chain for all.