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How To Track Food Using Food Traceability Software Systems

By Della Monroe

Food products are manufactured in large volumes these days. The mass production of foodstuffs means that millions of products are produced and transported in bulk consignments. This makes the individual checking and handling of each product impossible. Yet there are instances where a defective product is manufactured or the food starts to become a hazard to the consumer's health. In such cases, the manufacturer needs to be able to track the product, and they can use food traceability software systems to do this.

There are two main causes of trouble with food products, causing the manufacturer to trace and monitor them. One is that the food is past its expiry date. This is an administrative matter that the manufacturer cannot do anything about. Even if the food remains fit for human consumption, if legislation does not allow the food to be sold then it cannot be, regardless of its quality. No matter how bureaucratic this may appear to be to the consumer, stores cannot disobey the legislation.

The other cause is authentic decomposition, or loss of quality to the extent that the food product cannot be consumed any more. This is usually encountered in the case of perishables like vegetables, fruit and dairy, but it is also possible with canned goods or items which can be stored for a very long time, such as grains.

Software systems are used to mark, monitor and track food products. The manufacturer can locate a batch and then ask for it to be withdrawn from the market using these systems. This is important if the need arises to withdraw or recall a batch of products.

Yet the consumer can also empower themselves in order to avoid purchasing undesirable expired goods. This is important because the system of tracking and monitoring is not foolproof. Retailers can manipulate the system to avoid the elimination of expired goods. For example, where an expiry date is published on the packaging, this date may not be accurate or may be edited as it approaches.

Tinned food is easy to check because the packaging easily betrays the expired nature of its contents. A swollen tin, for example, means that air has entered the tin or that the contents are decomposing. In either case, the tin should not be purchased. A dented, rusted or punctured tin should not be bought.

Other long-term storage items are also susceptible to expiry and decomposition. This issue arises where the product is designed for this purpose, such as where it is advertised as a "long-life" product. These products sometimes are stored for a very long time, even one or two years. This does not make them immune to expiry and where they have expired and the retailer is still insisting on selling them to the public, the manufacturer or the authorities can be contacted.

Expired food products are a serious threat to public health and they should be identified and eliminated from sale as soon as possible. This is not only about the taste or quality of the products - the public should be protected against avoidable diseases.

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