How Automation Helps You Comply with FSMA

Food manufacturing automationLast September marked the first FSMA implementation deadline, when large companies were required to comply with the Preventive Controls Rule. This September, small companies will need to be in compliance, followed next year by very small companies.

And, of course, there are several aspects of FSMA for which FDA guidance and compliance information are still being determined.

The crux of all of the new laws is to take a more proactive approach to food safety, with the goal of preventing incidents from happening in the first place. In this article, we’ll examine three ways automation can help you achieve that goal.

Reducing human error

One of the major benefits of automating your food processing lines in general is that it takes human beings — and human error — out of the equation. This can be a major boon for food manufacturers as human error is one of the biggest causes of cross-contamination leading to food safety problems.

For example, the authors of this 2015 Food Safety Magazine article cite one study showing that almost 40% of foodborne illness outbreaks between 1993 and 1997 could be traced back to poor personal hygiene on the part of food workers. This led them to assert that “The bottom line in preventing foodborne illness is in agreement with the tenet that people create the situations that make people sick!”

While the article focused on food service, the same idea applies to food manufacturing. People create situations that make people sick. And by automating more processes, you can greatly reduce the chances of these situations occurring.

Enhancing product traceability

Traceability is a main tenet of FSMA. The law makes food producers and processors ultimately responsible for the security of their supply chain.

The new law hasn’t changed the “one-up-one-back” approach commonly used in the industry. However, many believe that this narrow view of the supply chain isn’t enough to guarantee food safety. They urge instead an end-to-end approach to traceability.

That’s where automation comes in. Tracking codes and smart sensors allow you to keep tabs on your product every step of the way.

These technologies can even provide the increased transparency that’s so attractive to consumers. For example, Barilla has partnered with Cisco in what they call their Safety for Food (S4F) Initiative. By scanning a QR code on certain Barilla products, consumers can trace their pasta all the way from wheat field to packaging and labeling.

Ensuring accurate labeling

Finally, while recalls related to Listeria get the most news coverage, recalls because of labeling mistakes are much more common. In fact, labeling errors are responsible for anywhere from 40% to more than 60% of food recalls. And many of these problems are due to data entry errors made by humans.

Automation can greatly reduce the chances of inaccurate labeling. For example, one solution on the market sends data directly from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to the printer, ensuring that the right data makes it onto every label.

If you’re not fully compliant with FSMA, now’s the time to get going. And we can help. Unitherm provides automated processing solutions, including complete production lines, to boost food safety and increase efficiency. Visit one of our solution centers to try out the equipment for yourself.

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