Automate to minimise food product recalls

The amount of product recalls leapt up during 2015. Robert Brooks argues that effective and integrated plant automation can play a lead role in minimising those costly and damaging recalls.

Food industry product recalls in the UK are a major headache for manufacturers, and one which is not about to vanish. Reports suggest that recalls in 2015 actually increased by 80% to 159*. The damage is reputational as well as financial.

While the majority of recalls are triggered by unlisted ingredients (including allergens), contamination with bacteria, metal and other foreign bodies was also responsible for many cases.

Manufacturers need to be aware of the impact on labelling and pack accuracy of current production trends. Shorter runs of multiple variants, reformulated versions of established products and redesigned packaging can all lead to mistakes being made.

Retailer and third-party standards will probably dictate levels of off-line testing and inline contaminant detection, but in these and other areas, they are constantly evolving. Manufacturers must keep abreast of these changes, as well as the implications of the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) regulation, with its new and very specific rules for on-pack information.

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