Growing Food Recalls Drive Focus on Traceability

Manufacturing Insights Blog

By Jon Cowan, Senior Account Manager of Food Solutions, and Tom Nessen, Senior Solution Engineer of Food Solutions, Plex Systems

Despite last year’s passage of the wide-reaching Food Safety Modernization Act, food recalls continue at an alarming rate. The latest in a long list of incidents is the salmonella outbreak resulting from peanut butter and other products manufactured by Sunland. A nationwide recall has led to the closing of Sunland’s main plant, the largest organic peanut processing plant in the nation, and tagalong recalls issued by 37 companies who use Sunland nuts in their products.

Massive recalls like this one have led to the demand for greater visibility and precision in the global food supply chain. The ability to trace food products and ingredients back to their sources and respond quickly to recalls is critical in minimizing financial losses, illness and lost lives.

Technology to the Rescue

Processors must be able to rapidly identify every ingredient for every product from receipt through processing, packaging and shipping, to the exact customer location. In the case of an investigation or recall, companies have to produce records of this data at least one step back and one step forward in their supply chain.

Many processors are turning to technology solutions like Plex to achieve this level of traceability. By tracking every ingredient through all processing steps – from receipt through shipment – our solution provides food processors with detailed historical data related to production, inspection and genealogy.

As a single-source Cloud ERP solution, Plex includes integrated quality, supply chain and inventory management, woven together with a strong focus on traceability. It provides serialized container and individual unit tracking, built-in barcode and RFID printing and scanning, CAPAs, SPCs and related functions.

Tracking with Pinpoint Precision

Plex automatically tracks complete genealogies. For example, at one leading frozen-entrée processor and packager, employees trace product data to the case number with just a few mouse clicks. Before they launched Plex, they could track data only as far as the lot number and would have to manually drill down to the case.

Plex can also pull graphical representations of product genealogies known as traceability trees. These include historical data for each ingredient’s receipt, movement, inspections, rejection/sorting and shipment – even identifying the individuals who operated the machines at each processing step. (For a good demonstration of this, watch our short video, "A Tale of Two Ingredients.")

Plex's unique traceability capabilities are one of the things I highlight most strongly when I talk with customers or prospective customers. These features go beyond providing a financial benefit to food companies; they serve a broader purpose by reducing the kind of outbreaks that can affect consumers – real people like you, me and our families.


The "traceability tree" for food processors, as displayed in Plex.