How Food Manufacturing Companies Can Reduce Risk and Eliminate Coding Errors

Food manufacturers with fast-moving production lines are likely to have experienced coding errors, but solutions that are able to identify errors before products make their way into the supply chain can help.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a Class I or Class II recall is required for a food product when “there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to the violative product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death” or “may cause temporary or medically reversible adverse health consequences.”[1] This includes situations in which a food product is not properly labeled with all possible allergens such as nuts, milk, soy or gluten. And as the risk for allergen-related labeling errors continues to be a serious issue for food manufactures, many are looking to their packaging operations — including their coding and marking processes — to help avoid costly recalls.

Food manufacturers with fast-moving production lines are likely to have experienced coding errors, but solutions that are able to identify errors before products make their way into the supply chain can help. Videojet Technologies Inc., a global leader in coding, marking and printing solutions, shares how food manufacturing companies can utilize technology on the production line to combat the risk of allergen-related recalls.

Recalls on the Rise for Food Manufacturers

In food manufacturing, the misbranding and mislabeling of products appears to be happening more frequently, subsequently forcing the need to issue recalls. In particular, allergen-related recalls are on the rise in recent years and have become one of the most prevalent types of recall according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). In fact, in 2014, the USDA reported that 43 of 94 recalls were related to undeclared allergens.[2] And already in 2015, the food industry has experienced many recalls of food products such as soup, hummus, salsa, baked goods and even seasonings – all due to undeclared allergens.[3]

Meeting the Need for Variable Data

Videojet consults with food manufacturers to help them provide consumers with accurate information about nutritional value and allergens, as well as dates, lot codes and graphics. With the appropriate coding solution, manufacturers can print or mark the necessary allergen information on each package with variable data while allowing for real-time changes to the content.

While it is sometimes possible to augment a manufacturer’s existing print technology to meet current requirements for allergen labeling, some manufacturers find that their older equipment often can’t keep up with line speeds when printing large amounts of data. Videojet suggests that these manufacturers investigate newer, higher speed solutions that meet throughput requirements and also provide other benefits such as faster line set-up and changeovers and reduced opportunities for errors.

Thermal transfer overprinters (TTO), for example, have the capability to add large amounts of high-resolution text to flexible packaging film and labels in multiple font sizes and styles while reducing the need for pre-printed stock. Another high resolution solution, laser marking, provides crisp, high resolution text on cartons, cases, pre-printed polypropylene films and many other substrates. Lasers are designed for high quality marking with virtually no font, code or graphics restrictions. An additional solution, continuous inkjet (CIJ) printing, can be employed for real-time printing and marking of ingredients and allergens on bags, closures, flow packs, cartons, pouches and most other food packaging materials.

Getting the Right Code

While most food manufacturers implement standard procedures to manually check printed codes periodically during a production run, this is often not enough to avoid labeling mistakes and subsequent recalls. On moderate-speed packaging lines employing CIJ printers, hundreds and perhaps thousands of products may be marked between manual inspections, resulting in the possibility of a mislabeled product. While product recalls may occur — even with the many safeguards in place today — food manufacturers can be best prepared with the implementation of a code detection system to strengthen existing quality control processes.

An automated code detection system provides a means to help confirm that the necessary code is printed on each package. Code detection technology can help to reduce both rework and the possibility of recalls by alerting users of code defects at the time of production, enabling issues to be resolved immediately. Using presence/absence detection, an automated code detection system verifies that inkjet-printed codes contain an appropriate number of pixels within a defined tolerance in a specific space, helping reduce downtime and delivering assurance that products have been coded properly.

About Videojet

Videojet Technologies is a world leader in the product identification market, providing in-line printing, coding, and marking products, application specific fluids, and product life cycle services. Our goal is to partner with our customers in the consumer packaged goods, pharmaceutical, and industrial goods industries to improve their productivity, to protect and grow their brands, and to stay ahead of industry trends and regulations.  With our customer application experts and technology leadership in continuous ink jet (CIJ), thermal ink jet (TIJ), laser marking, thermal transfer overprinting (TTO), case coding and labeling, and wide array printing, Videojet has more than 325,000 printers installed worldwide.  Our customers rely on Videojet products to print on over ten billion products daily. Customer sales, application, service, and training support is provided by direct operations with over 3,000 team members in 26 countries worldwide. In addition, the Videojet distribution network includes more than 400 distributors and OEMs, serving 135 countries.

[1] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts.

[2] The United States Department of Agriculture. Summary of Recall Cases in Calendar Year 2014.

[3] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts.