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Analyst advises on the importance of traceability in the food industry

08 February 2013

The latest food scandal concerning the contamination of beef with horsemeat shows the importance of traceability in the food industry, according to Sue Clarke, senior information management analyst at Ovum.

Traceability in the food industry has been in force in Europe since 2005, and this has resulted in much quicker, simpler, and cheaper product recalls, as well as allowing the source of contamination to be traced quickly. Ensuring traceability requires organisations to have effective systems in place to ensure that they can trace components back to previous stages in the manufacturing process as well as forwards to the next manufacturers in the supply chain in order to make sure that they are quickly able to identify any components that are affected by a problem and subsequent recall.

The use of traceability systems has allowed the affected organisations and regulators to trace the likely source of the contaminated meat to Poland. However, the damage to the companies affected has already been done, the meat industry has been discredited and the suppliers of the meals have suffered brand damage, and will inevitably suffer from loss of sales.

Without the necessary systems in place the situation would have been much worse. Much of the information relating to the manufacturing process itself will be contained within an ERP system, but supporting documentation may be stored in an ECM repository. The benefit of a traceability and product recall solution based on an ECM system is that all of the documentation received from other organizations in the supply chain can be stored in the repository, including the images of paper documents which have been scanned and had relevant information extracted. Much of this scanning and extraction process can be automated using a traceability and product recall solution from an ECM vendor.

It is being claimed that there has been criminal involvement in the horsemeat contamination scandal, but the ability to trace food components back to their origins through the use of software systems means that criminals should be apprehended much quicker.


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