Product recalls are one portion of the food processing sector we’d all like to send packing. But popular products are still being pulled from supermarket shelves in rising numbers, according to recent figures.
Global brands such as Mars are not immune. In February the company dumped millions of chocolate bars from shelves in a voluntary move to reassure customers after fragments of plastic were found in one of its products.
Contamination from pathogens such as E coli, and undeclared allergens also made unwelcome headlines this year, causing a wide range of goods to be hastily withdrawn from sale.
Recalls may be effective at limiting harm to the public, but they still cost the food processing industry dearly. Not just on the balance sheet, but also by eroding trust with retailers and business partners.
So what will it take to consign product recalls to the industrial skip once and for all?
So what will it take to consign product recalls to the industrial skip once and for all? Preventative maintenance, process control, quality systems and fraud detection are just some of the tools of the trade for today’s manufacturers.
In this month’s cover story we also look at a range of new technologies that are injecting fresh ideas into food safety.
At the retail end of the spectrum comes ‘intelligent packaging’ that uses degradation sensors to let shoppers know when products have exceeded their prime.
For those keeping supply chains in check, new imaging techniques are promising to track fraud in far more nimble ways than traditional DNA testing.
Taking a completely different tack is the University College Dublin (UCD), which is building predictive software that uses environmental intelligence data to mitigate the risks of bacterial contamination within supply chains.
These technologies will undoubtedly find a warm welcome once they have earned their stripes in the rough and tumble of supply chains that make up today’s food industry.
But in the meantime, the product recall will retain its reluctant, but necessary role in a food manufacturer’s arsenal.