Originally published July 19, 2012
Criticality of FDA Recalls
In watching the FDA recalls feed, I’ve noticed that a surprising number of recalls are initiated because the wrong packaging was used in production. In fact, “incorrect labeling or packaging” is on the FDA’s list of Top Ten Food Safety Problems (issued August 9, 2004). The chief danger in mislabeling is that an allergen-containing product may be accidentally packaged in a container for a non-allergenic product. An allergen-related recall is classified at the highest level, Class 1, and is defined as “a situation in which there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to a product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death”.
Real Life Packaging Errors
It sounds like a simple issue. One may ask whether the operator isn’t putting the stack of cartons into the packaging machine and making sure the correct carton is used. Accidents happen and it may be that a single incorrect carton got into the stack, the shipping box the cartons came in is mismarked, or the wrong stack of cartons was grabbed. Sometimes these errors are not discovered until it is too late; the end product has been distributed in multiple states and an expensive recall must be initiated.
We often hear “but it will never happen to us” as an excuse for delaying implementation until a catastrophic event occurs.
For example, the last thing an ice cream packager wants to do is put pecan ice cream into a container labeled for vanilla ice cream. Pecans being an allergen could have severe consequences. In January 2011, Publix faced a similar situation with their Premium Brand ice cream. On January 28, 2011, Publix announced the recall of their Premium Light Tiramisu Ice Cream due to the possibility that the container might contain their Premium Coffee Almond Fudge Light Ice Cream. In this case, Almonds were the unlabeled allergen.
Or In the world of frozen entrees, a food packager does not want an entrée with shellfish or egg ingredients to be placed in a package that does not list these ingredients. Nestle Prepared Foods faced a similar situation in April 2012, when they recalled 17,000 pounds of Stouffer’s frozen lasagna packages, as some contained stuffed peppers. The peppers contained Worcestershire sauce made with anchovies, to which some people are allergic.
Machine Vision Prevents Recalls
Machine Vision Company (MVC) has provided leading food packagers with label and packaging inspection systems to address this top FDA food safety problem. Our installed CircumSpect® and SureLabel® products have spotted mislabeling and packaging errors and have prevented the incorrectly labeled products from getting into the consumer’s hands. MVC’s machine vision systems have saved packagers large amounts of money that would otherwise be spent on recalls and lawsuits.
Machine Vision Provides Low Cost Insurance
With the myriad of food allergies and food sensitivity becoming an increasingly important issue, a machine vision solution that verifies that every carton or package used is the expected one, is like an insurance policy. The cost of a turnkey machine vision solution is generally between $30,000 and $150,000 depending on the technology and environment. The cost of recalling maybe 20,000 pounds of product from a market covering 8 states, quarantining product, shipping replacement product, losing goodwill with customers and consumers, and covering other expenses is likely a much higher amount than just making sure mislabeling never happens in the first place.
Contact Machine Vision Company at 978.551.4160 to learn more about recall prevention insurance with one of our label and package inspection products.