The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law in 2011, brings many changes to food and drug regulation. The act focuses on preventing food contamination and increasing the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) ability to force product recalls. It also provides the FDA with the power to review product information flows and company records. You can adapt to these regulatory changes with a track and trace solution.
A track and trace solution provides timely and reliable access to product information. This type of access is critical, especially if the product shelf life is days or weeks, rather than months. This type of solution can connect to your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and allow you to track lot codes or date identifiers. This will enable you to quickly view exactly where in the manufacturing process products are. As a result, decisions can be made before the shelf life of the product expires. The ability to produce records for the FDA upon request with minimum effort is also a tremendous opportunity for savings over paper-based systems.
The first step in implementing a track and trace solution is branding or labeling either the date or lot code in the processing of the food or beverage. If a lot code is being used, adding barcodes is a great way to accomplish this. A number of different barcode types, or symbologies, have been developed over the past several years to allow a greater number of characters to be used and provide more details on the lot.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) is another way to track food through the supply chain, and it is becoming more affordable than ever before. RFID can even be used to monitor for adverse product conditions. For example, track core temperatures by inserting battery assisted passive RFID tags inside palletloads of produce. This enables you to track core temperatures as the produce encounters various conditions all the way from the field to processing, distribution and the store. Having a food tracking system that can both keep track of location information and generate alerts when adverse conditions occur is critical for ensuring healthy shelf life of produce.
After a product has been branded, scanning or visual systems must be set up at various points in the processing in order to track throughput, inventory and destination of the product. The data from these scans are consolidated into the track and trace application. Various data fields are linked to the business ERP system for quality, finance, and manufacturing resource planning. The lot information is also stored, which allows the user quick access to pull history information should the FDA require it.
Having a sound methodology to evaluate business processes and workflows is a critical key to success. Track and trace solutions are a great way to improve your current system and to respond to the regulatory changes of the Food Safety Modernization Act. These solutions require industry expertise and experience with the various hardware and software components required. Send me an e-mail today, or call L-Tron Corporation toll-free at (800) 830-9523 to discuss how we can help you get started with a track and trace solution.