From knowing exactly what is used on products from farm to fork to keeping an accurate record of data, food firms could gain a great deal of insight from the crisis, said Shan Zhan, global business manager for food and beverage at ABB Control Technologies.
Above all, it emphasised the need for an automation system that can perform these tasks as standard, he added.
A main concern from the fipronil incident was that authorities in the Netherlands had become aware of the illegal use of the insecticide as far back as November 2016, Zhan said.
Series of administrative errors
However, a series of administrative errors and a lack of collaboration meant the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, was not informed until July 2017, when the eggs were pulled from shelves across Europe. This resulted in an estimated 700,000 contaminated eggs reaching UK supermarkets.
“All food manufacturers should at least be compliant with the ISO 22005:2007 standard for traceability in the feed and food chain,” said Zhan.
“This allows organisations to record data pertaining to their products, including everything from the feed being used to the ingredients and packaging.”
Competent staff were key to improving traceability and ensuring minimum compliance to this standard, Zhan said.
“While it is vital to have standard operating procedures (SOPs) for traceability in a food processing facility, such as scanning an ingredient on a receipt, employees are often responsible for doing this,” he explained.
Ineffective without SOPS
“Without this, no matter how good the control system, it will never be effective. The manufacturer must ensure all staff follow SOPs.”
The second factor was a complete automation control system, gathering data from every level to feed back to the central manufacturing or manufacturing operations management system, said Zhan. This ensured operators were performing their tasks in the correct way, avoiding non-conformances, he added.
“In addition, all the relevant data such as material lots, quantities, test results and process parameters are collected along the process to ensure complete forward and backward traceability,” he said.
“Such a comprehensive log of data can ensure the food processing facility is prepared in the event of a recall or contamination scandal.”