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Track-and-trace functionality added to food lines

16 December 2020

There is a growing need to provide full traceability of food ingredients and manufacturers of finished products should consider adapting their systems if they are to stay ahead of the curve. 

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To help achieve this, GEA is offering food manufacturers a layer of enhanced functionality on a variety of its food lines which enables track-and-trace of every single ingredient used throughout the duration of the production process. 

GEA’s Food Solutions division based in the Netherlands has developed custom-built solutions to suit a range of customer requirements. Taking a step-by-step approach to automation, GEA’s food processing lines come with a choice of four key levels of automation known as Link Logic, Process Manager, Production Commander and Plant Controller, covering systems which meet the minimum of CE regulations, through to systems which feed back and store data. 

The higher level systems can provide reporting on various trends throughout the process of an entire production line, enabling engineers to monitor progress and respond to any deviations along the way. On a chicken nugget line, for example, as staff access reports throughout the process, information can be fed back stating that the temperature of the meat mix has altered. In a highly sensitive process such as industrial scale chicken nugget production, any marginal deviation can affect the viscosity of the mixture, which will have effect the finished product. 

Taking this one step further, GEA has enhanced the Plant Controller level of automation, providing ERP interfacing and total traceability of ingredients. At this level, GEA’s complete lines need the minimum of supervision to run, saving on labor and ensuring consistent high quality by eliminating human error and significantly reducing food hygiene risks.

In terms of traceability, before meat or dry ingredients can be added to a Plant Controller level production line, operators are instructed via touchscreen to scan the barcode of each batch beforehand. Information from the barcode including the place of origin of the ingredient gets fed back into the system and saved, allowing for upstream traceability. In conjunction with this, each product that comes out at the end of the line then gets its own unique barcode label, which is attached to the batch of finished products enabling complete traceability. 

Should reports generated throughout the process highlight a potential risk of contamination, the barcode system makes it possible to trace the issue back to a specific batch and ascertain which products that batch was used for. This targeted approach avoids costly mass destruction of product, and the availability of detailed reports makes it possible to prevent contaminated products from entering the supply chain.

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