No More Recalls!

2015 – Royston

The number of food product recalls is increasing. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has now begun recording the product recalls from Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan and the United States. In the first seven months of 2015 alone, the OECD Global Recall Portal recorded over 1,300 instances – from biological and physical contamination to incorrectly labelled products1.

The impact of a product recall

A joint report by GMA, Covington and Ernst & Young found that over 81% of survey respondents described the financial consequences of a recall as either “significant” or “catastrophic” for their business2. The impact of a product recall can result in loss of business contracts, fines, hugely damaging publicity and a decline in consumer confidence.

According to research by AMR, around 57% of consumers will stop buying an affected product for at least a year3. However, this is insignificant when considering the situation that if a manufacturer does not recall the contaminated product early enough, before reaching the consumer, then this can potentially result in injury or even fatality.

Reasons for a recall

Physical contamination can be a reason to recall products. The inclusion of foreign bodies in food products can occur at multiple points throughout the supply chain. For example, objects such as stones or barbed wire can be found in raw materials, metal fragments can be introduced during processing. Likewise, plastic or glass shards are a hazard during packaging operations.

Incorrect labelling is also a major cause of recalls. The correct labelling of primary and secondary packaging is essential – not just to adhere to labelling regulations such as the European Union’s 1169/2011 directive, wherein manufacturers producing food items for sale in the EU are required to clearly indicate and highlight certain information within ingredients lists – but to safeguard consumers against potential allergens. Incorrect labelling is a worldwide issue and in the US, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) cites that labelling mistakes are the biggest cause for food recalls.

Recent revisions to BRC Food Safety Issue 7 reflect the growing importance of labelling. With changes to the display of statutory information, label control programmes become increasingly vital. A new white paper, ‘Understanding Food Label Regulations‘, discusses these changes and the impact they will have on your business.

How to prevent product recalls

It is vital to business and brand success to have good quality control checks in place to reduce the likelihood of a product recall. Inline product inspection technology is the only viable solution to detect and reject products containing physical contaminants, weight inaccuracies, and packaging and labelling defects. Once a product safety risk is identified, checks need to be carried out at what is known as a critical control point (CCP) – a point where inspection technology is installed.

Reliable and correctly specified inspection equipment never blinks – so is unlikely to miss a problem. It can perform complete dimensional and cosmetic inspections on all types of products contained within different packaging formats and materials, regardless of size, and at high throughput rates.

Modern x-ray inspection systems perform a wide-range of inline quality checks. In addition to detecting even the smallest of physical contaminants, they can also fulfil a number of roles such as counting components, identifying missing or broken products, checking for damaged packaging, and measuring mass. However, when it comes to ensuring compliance with local weights and measures requirements, dynamic checkweighers are the best solution.

Metal detectors are ideal for applications that require detecting metal contaminants only. Modern detectors are capable of finding ferrous, non-ferrous and stainless steel in all food products including those with high moisture contents. Recent advances in technology mean that new ‘multi-simultaneous frequency’ metal detectors can be used in challenging applications that not only increase detection but significantly reduce false reject rates.

Labels are key to ensuring products are shelf ready. Vision inspection technology has the ability to inspect labels for proper ID, correctness and overall presentation, verifying that barcodes and lot numbers are readable and correct. This technology can play an important role in tracking and tracing production processes and ensuring that poorly packaged products never reach the retailer.

The use of effective product inspection technology offered by TOLEDO CAROLINA can ensure manufacturers that contaminant-free, correctly labelled products reach the end user thereby protecting the consumer, their own brand and future business.

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