All over the world, caution at preventing bacterial contamination in packaged and raw foods has caused an egregious amount of wasted food. One of the most recent was a voluntary recall by Kellogg Co. who found listeria in their waffles during routine tests. No illnesses have been reported in connection with the affected batches, but it reminds manufacturers that strict management is important in acting pre-emptively in cases of contamination and preventing food waste.
By tracking products from their raw components through production to a final packaged product across a common platform that takes compliance, testing, and workflow management into account, manufacturers will be able to better mitigate and manage food recalls. Using modern lab software that tracks and documents these items across a common platform will be indispensable in the coming years.
Where Is All This Listeria Coming From?
Listeria is often caused by infected manure, which may directly contact food as fertilizer or enter the water table as overflow from livestock farms and come into contact with grains, fruits, and vegetables by accident. It is easily killed through cooking and pasteurization, although this leaves raw fruits and vegetables (as well as raw milk products) unprotected from potential outbreaks. Manufacturers who produce bagged salads and packaged veggie snacks, therefore, need to be well-equipped to track their ingredients. Additionally, should contaminated food come into contact with processing equipment, it has the potential to spread the bacteria to every following lot.
Many of these issues could be avoided if manufacturers used high-level modern software to track the process from raw ingredients to the final products. The more you know about where the ingredients come from, which products used them as components and which products were manufactured on shared equipment, the better you can prevent sending out contaminated food and implementing food recalls. This will save manufacturers a lot of time and money that would otherwise be spent on wasted food and potential legal disputes.
Preventing Contaminants from Reaching the Consumer
Companies should be using modern computer software that has one common platform to track incoming raw materials, which processes they undergo, which products they end up in and which shared equipment is used in this process. For example, many recalls over allergen-related issues are associated with using multiple software systems or a manual process for managing food manufacturing. Imagine almonds are being used in a kind of granola, and are processed along with other products on shared equipment. Nuts are a common, severe allergen and precautions need to be made when using shared equipment. If there isn’t one coherent system, allergen contamination of other foods being manufactured on shared equipment may either be missed, or there may be a massive recall to compensate for poor communication.
An innovative computer system can also assist in creating correct labels (i.e. “May contain…”) and expiration date management. These are often done using numerous software packages, leading to frequent slip-ups, especially when scaling up production. Multiple software systems may not sync correctly and if one system lots raw products, but an entirely different product tracks the progress through manufacturing, data errors are a constant worry.
Better tracking of this manufacturing process will not be enough on its own, and the same level of methodical diligence should be applied to sanitation practices as well. When manual methods or multiple software packages are used for tracking sanitation, similar events can occur. Often, sanitation procedures are kept and modified manually, very frequently as a hard copy on paper. This leads to inconsistencies, poorly noted modifications and loss of the procedure itself (either hard copy or software).
There needs to be a single, common platform that takes into account cleaning methods, as well as highly effective sanitation methods. Lean manufacturing, a systematic method to eliminate waste during the production process, has a 5S regimen to promote sanitization: sort, set in order, sanitize, standardize, and sustain.
The 5S regimen is designed to save time and money as it reduces the number of food recalls by ensuring that sanitization occurs as efficiently as possible. These processes can be easily managed and implemented using modern computer software; a stopgap can be put into the production process reminding staff that sanitation needs to occur and remind them of the full procedure. By integrating this on a common software platform with the rest of the process, there is a lower likelihood of it being missed, which will help reduce food waste and recall actions.
Modern lab software allows for tracking and documenting variation, or lack thereof, in food manufacturing. This assists producers in preventing the need to pull lots or batches from the shelves due to strange inconsistencies as it lays out the groundwork for consistent processing. Additionally, it can focus attention on variations that may be occurring at particular steps allowing manufacturers to hone in on certain procedures that need to be refined, or on products that ought to be pulled from the shelves. BIOVIA Perfect Lab helps manufacturers of consumer packaged goods avoid issues regarding food contaminations, such as listeria. “Eggo waffles recalled amid listeria fears,” September 20, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/19/health/kellogg-eggo-waffle-recall/index.html  “5S and Lean Sanitation Strategies Improve Food Safety by Ensuring Cleanliness Throughout the Supply Chain,” July 5, 2016, http://www.incito.com/insights/5s-and-lean-sanitation-strategies-improve-food-safety-by-ensuring-cleanliness-throughout-the-supply-chain/