Food scandals not only endanger the health of consumers, they also damage confidence in a brand or an entire industry. Modern serialization technologies make it easier for retailers and consumers to identify original products and track product routes more transparently.
In 2008, milk powder contaminated with melamine, a chemical used in plastics production, caused the death of at least six children in China; hundreds of thousands of babies fell ill – as case that consumers will not forget. The same goes for the horse meat scandal of 2013, when producers labelled and exported cheap horse meat as beef. This kind of food scandals not only acutely endanger the safety of consumers, but also their confidence in the brand. Counterfeit-proof products are therefore of primary concern. However, many food producers are not sure what they need to consider for implementation. Here, the pharmaceutical industry can provide answers with existing solutions.
Serialization creates counterfeit protection and trust
In the strictly regulated pharmaceutical industry, country-specific regulations on mandatory labelling have gained enormous momentum in recent years. They protect consumers from dangerous counterfeit medicines and strengthen confidence in the products. In the food industry, packaging labels have so far only been commonly used to indicate the ingredients, a nutrition table, as well as information on the best before date and manufacturer. Exact codes with further information are still rare. However, data matrix codes hold great potential for some products.
Traceability of original products should be mandatory, especially for baby food, which requires the highest level of hygiene safety. Both retailers and end consumers would have complete transparency about the origin, authenticity and integrity of a product. Serialization also makes sense for high-priced spirits such as whisky. This could prevent products from being counterfeited or diluted with cheap substances, which might cause health issues. Another potential application is the complete traceability of meat products. Consumers would have certainty about where and how the animal was kept, where it was slaughtered and whether it really is of the declared organic quality. More widespread serialization in the food sector could help to increase consumer confidence in the products consumed.
The serialization of food products enables manufacturers, retailers and consumers to track products seamlessly – from origin to logistics to sale. In some countries, such as South Korea, there is already a trend towards codes on food packaging. It is predicted that serialization to actively prevent food scandals and increase safety and transparency for the end consumer will increase in the coming years. However, the individual marking of each product means additional effort for manufacturers. The introduction of a suitable serialization solution entails investment costs as well as process adaptations. Hence, the willingness to change certain processes is the basic prerequisite for a successful introduction, while experience can help with the concrete implementation. This experience exists, mainly in the pharmaceutical industry, where many manufacturers have already completed the process.
Even though the implementation of serialization solutions initially requires a significant investment in terms of time and costs, it offers the food industry additional protection for its products – and ultimately for consumers. Whether it’s dairy products, baby food or expensive spirits, serialized products help determine the authenticity of food and protect manufacturers and their image of falling victim to counterfeiters.
Bosch Packaging Technology
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