Many Food Safety Numbers are Still Recorded on Paper

Why, in this day of smart devices, tracking technologies and internet connected 'things', do we still rely on people writing numbers down on sheets of paper when it comes to food tracking and traceability? Take a simple food company producing products for a variety of retailers. Each product contains multiple ingredients and is likely to go through multiple stages of processing. Ingredients arrive on pallets, batch numbers are recorded and labels written and stuck on the packages to be cross referenced to the supplier batch references. The ingredients are then stored, picked and moved into production. Batch numbers are recorded again as they are moved and used.


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Posted by Colin Elkins, Principal Solution Engineer, Epicor Tropos


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Throughout production more numbers are written down for intermediates and then finally the batch numbers of the finished goods are recorded, pallet by pallet, meaning more label writing and more label sticking.  This scenario is not of a business operating twenty years ago.  It's the reality I see day in and day out within the food industry today.

In a typical week, thousands of ingredient labels are written, and thousands of batch references are written and cross referenced with finished products. Hundreds of sheets of paper are collated and stored just in case a product needs to be recalled. And, for those who boast electronic traceability, often it isn't a joined up system and many have entered those paper records into a computer system.

Which leads me to ask-

  • What are the chances of those numbers always being written correctly?
  • What are the chances of a label being misread?
  • What are the chances of the cross referencing to intermediates being correct?
  • How many records are mistyped into computer systems?
  • How long will it take to find out where a faulty batch went?

The answer to this last question is often days and in some cases a week or even longer. This can have far reaching consequences for a business embroiled in a product recall scenario.

A simple observer of this kind of traceability system would be horrified at the number of places in the process that it can all go terribly wrong. In my following blog posts, I will examine what this all means for a producer, a retailer and the consumer.

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