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Food Traceability: Why it Matters and Where We’re Headed

It all started with champagne.

One of the very first applications of food traceability dates back to the 1930s with an effort to prove that grapes from a bottle of French champagne were indeed from the Champagne region of France. Its success led to other food traceability demands on other high-end products. There were small efforts here and there but, up until World War II, food traceability was largely nonexistent. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that a more significant movement in Europe became the driving force exposing global traceability issues. Today food traceability plays a critical role in the global market and it is growing in complexity. Legislation has everyone’s attention from the USDA and state regulators to farmers and processors.

What is Food Traceability?

Food traceability means having the ability to track the flow of foods throughout the production, processing and distribution stages. Sounds simple, right? If traceability was once viewed through a 3.5-megapixel lens, today, it’s viewed through a 4K 12-megapixel ultra-wide-angle. Strict EU traceability regulations, 178/2002 General Food Law Regulation, surrounding food safety and labeling require suppliers to provide documentation within hours showing one step forward and one step back in the food supply chain. Failure to do this can be disruptive to your business.

A growing global market and increased consumer demand for transparency have put food traceability in the spotlight and nutritional ingredients and undeclared allergens under the microscope. Based on recall data from the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food recalls increased 10% from 2013 to 2018. Having the right food traceability program in place can make all the difference.

In 2006 Cadbury-Schweppes recalled a million chocolate bars due to suspected salmonella poisoning at a cost of £20 million and saw a drop in chocolate sales of 14%. Initial costs were high, but Cadbury-Schweppes had the right program in place and handled the recall swiftly. As a result, there was no lasting impact on the company.

On the flip-side, SoyNut Butter, a nut-free peanut butter substitute was found responsible for an E. coli outbreak in early 2017 where twenty-nine individuals across 12 states fell ill. Nine of the 12 developed kidney failure. SoyNut Butter’s products had made their way to childcare centers and schools. The contaminated product was determined to be the soy paste which was manufactured by Dixie Dew Products, Inc. In May 2017, SoyNut Butter filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. By January 2019, the E. coli victims were awarded $11.25 million USD. Recalls can incur a hefty cost, or they can be mitigated when you have the right traceability system in place.

For food process manufacturers, traceability is required for more than just recalls. In recent years, the industry has seen a consumer-driven laser-focus on ingredients and nutrition. Increasingly, companies are being required to ascertain product origin, ingredients, and attributes at every phase from farm to food processing and from retail to the consumer. By tight regulation, this information needs to be provided in a matter of hours. At the root, public health concerns are demanding traceability, but it will be the business economic drivers that will sustain it.

The ultimate goal of any traceability plan is to identify problems quickly and mitigate risk. Advancements in food traceability software can expose issues before they become a problem by giving food processors a better view of their data through accurate, real-time and predictive reporting. Processors need to be equipped with smart tools that optimize their food traceability programs so that they are prepared to answer.

The future of food traceability is here. Modern-day traceability programs have deployed automated processes and use smart tools to track and trace. When basic tasks are taken out of human hands, food processing manufacturers can focus on strategic initiatives and development. Software has been fine-tuned and is now easy-to-use by everyone on the manufacturing floor.

Companies now avoid data silos and easily share data between facilities. Better vision on data means better food traceability processes, including shortened supply chains, reduced waste, and higher profit margins. In addition to a higher degree and accountability of food safety, the optics are favorable to stakeholders.

Smart software solutions are key to the future of any process manufacturer’s food traceability program. Food process manufacturers should look to industry-specific software that is scalable so that the system can keep up as the company grows. Systems can be set up on-premise or in the cloud.  If on-premise makes the most sense for your business today, it is a good idea to ensure the system can transfer from on-premise to cloud in the future. Backed by more than 20 years of experience in process manufacturing, Epicor Tropos is the affordable answer to food traceability. Real-time data, touch-screen dashboards, mobile and multi-site support and ease of integration with your current systems are just a handful of the functions offered by Tropos. Epicor’s educational program makes the switch a breeze and will manage your food traceability program so you can get back to growing your business and leading your industry.


Learn more about Epicor Tropos smart software solutions for Food Traceability.