How to Prevent Mislabeling in Food Manufacturing
Fostering a culture of accuracy, efficiency, and proper quality control measures is the best route for a processor to achieve a high standard for labeling procedures. Mislabeling is a hazard to consumer safety, productivity, profitability, and reputation. At Carlisle Technology, our team has been working to provide an integrated labeling solution for the food processing industry since 1985.
In a recent article, we talked about US food labeling requirements and shared tips on how to remain compliant at all times. In this post experts at Carlisle shared their best advice on how to prevent mislabeling in manufacturing, especially in meat and poultry processing plants. The best lesson we learned from our decades of experience, is that the key to having a seamless weighing and labeling process is to use the right software solution along with high-quality hardware components.
In order to deal with the hazard to consumer safety, and issues arising with mislabeling for companies’ reputation and profitability we’ll look at the cost associated with mislabeling.
Penalties for Mislabeling
Mislabeling can be a nightmare for food processors. It’s important to understand the business risks around mislabeling.
There are a multitude of errors that are very easy to make, which can result in mislabeling products. Some of these include:
- An operator selects the wrong roll of pre-printed labels from inventory, causing a label mix up on a packaging line
- Production volume is increasing, operators overlook if the label matches the work order to accommodate pressure
- Processors using older technology and hardware are susceptible to improper printing and label application
- Manual processes can lead to incorrect or absent allergen and nutrition fact information
The penalties for these causes are serious and can cause ramifications to a food processor’s ability to operate within their respective market.
In Canada and the USA, failure to comply with proper labeling procedures for consumer-packaged goods can result in the following: (Citation) – Government of Canada
- Government intervention to order a complete recall of identified consumer products
- Government can order food processors to test and study consumer products at the processor’s expense
- Financial and Legal ramifications up to $5 million dollars and imprisonment of up to 2 years
- Seizure of information for production records, and products for evaluation.
- Business license suspension
A processor doesn’t just have to worry about Government ramifications, but also supplier ramifications. Many top food processors today supply some of the biggest grocery store chains such as Walmart, Costco, Kroger, etc. Distributors of this caliber require strict and accurate labeling requirements from their suppliers and will impose fees, restrictions, and other measures for violating these terms.
These terms are outlined in a supplier code of conduct prior to an agreement between the supplier and distributor.
Some of these penalties include: (Citation) – Walmart Supplier Code
- Dissolution of Supplier/Distributor agreement for multiple infractions of mislabeling
- Financial penalty of up to $5,000,000 Depending on the severity of the situation
- Formal Report filed to the Federal Government for violation of Consumer Foods Handling and Production Laws
All of these are potential threats because of mislabeling in food production. This stresses the need for a processor to have a robust, tech-enabled system in place with the right checks and balances to ensure consistency and labeling accuracy.
To prevent mislabeling in your production facility, stick to the following tips:
- Simply the process for weighing and labeling
- Integrate weighing and labeling stations
- Train the organization
Production Managers, Supervisors, and other relevant management need to instill these checks and balances across all production facility members for the best possible chance of prevention. Bi-weekly meetings to assess the performance of these guidelines are critical to maintain consistency.
Simplify the process for weighing and labeling
If you have a complicated process in place and have solutions that don’t fully integrate with one another, this can lead to higher training costs, more frequent mislabeling, and more work for everyone on your team.
Consider the following to simplify your weighing and labeling process:
- Am I using multiple hardware components that don’t integrate for my weigh and label process?
- Are my label formats being controlled through an MES? If not, then how?
- How does WIP integrate into my weigh and label process?
- Is my current process the most efficient and streamlined?
- Do I have inventory and production reporting insight?
- Do I have frequent mislabeling on my finished goods?
Food processors need to have a unified, consolidated process for weighing and labeling that makes their production seamless and efficient on the plant floor. It’s time to consider an alternative labeling method if the current system is not integrated, lacks label format control, and is consistently producing errors.
Integrate Weighing and Labeling Stations
Integrating scales, printers, and scanners into one complete weighing and labeling station, in an efficient way, is critical to preventing mislabeling mistakes. We have seen many processors increase their efficiency and minimize labeling errors after fully integrating their weighing and labeling stations.
A manual weighing station without integration typically includes hardware components that don’t communicate with each other. An operator each time needs to weigh a product, manually record the weight from the scale, and create a label for each product. The room for human error is large. This type of process will not just result in financial penalties but will also reduce efficiency. Without integration, throughput will decrease, operators are prone to human error, and there is not a consolidated solution.
Using proprietary hardware, multiple vendors, and a siloed approach to weighing and labeling is going to cause headaches, mistakes, and loss of revenue.
Taking an integrated, consolidated approach helps the processor in a multitude of ways. With an integrated solution, software links all the various hardware components together. This allows the operator to select which product they’re working with, it enables the scale to automatically send the weight to the software application, and finally, the printer automatically prints a label for application. This removes the cumbersome, error-prone process of doing each step manually. An integrated solution also increases throughput for an operator and reduces labeling errors.
Train the Organization
Plant Management need to foster a culture of consistency, accuracy, and efficiency within their operations when it comes to labeling procedures. Standards need to be upheld when it comes to label management, and plant floor labeling processes. A process needs to be put in place for this to be implemented effectively throughout the organization.
Establishing a regulatory QA position in the organization is critical. They need to oversee, establish label standards, and review any new label formats before they go down to the plant floor. For example, products sent to different countries will have different labeling requirements. These can be based on units of measurement, allergens, and nutritional facts etc. It is critical that the regulatory QA individual has a comprehensive understanding of the label format variations. Using the incorrect label can cause a multitude of issues. Some include: a recall of all products sent, financial penalties, and a strained supplier/distributor relationship. The regulatory QA individual needs to oversee the safety, quality, and financial importance of correct labeling standards. This needs to be relayed within the organization. They should be able to clarify the need for accuracy, and explain the harm associated with failure to successfully accomplish those tasks.
Management and the executive team of the organization need to work in unison to foster, develop and maintain a culture of consistency, accuracy, and efficiency when it comes to labeling practices. The regulatory QA, HACCP Coordinator, and other relevant oversight roles regarding labeling procedures need to set, regulate, and review label standards before reaching the plant floor. Once this high standard of labeling procedures is met, it is up to management to continuously have the correct checks and balances to ensure it is upheld and consistent.
Rethink In-motion Weighing and Labelling
Another complexity can get introduced in the plant floor when you have in-motion weighing and labeling required.
As a food processor begins to scale up their operation to expand into new markets, higher volumes of throughput will be required. This means the static weighing and labeling solution will not have the ability to keep up with the increased demand.
Integrating conveyor scales with print and apply systems in high-volume processing facilities can be essential to avoid labeling mistakes. Automated labeling solutions will increase a plant’s production throughput and reduce labeling errors. Some of these errors include label placement on a box and misidentifying as well as mislabeling finished good products.
Automated in-motion systems can offer advanced features such as inbound product identification used to identify mixed products prior to weighing. Automated weight and data capture, outbound label verification, reject management, and product sortation. These sorts of solutions can help processors reduce overall labeling mistakes and increase production throughput.
How Carlisle Technology Fixes the Problem
Carlisle Technology eliminates the headaches and problems by taking an integrated approach between hardware and software components of the weighing and labeling station. When it comes to weighing and labeling individual product pieces or their packing cartons, operators rave about iCap’s simplicity. Product selection is a simple “touch” away. With that one touch, all of the product-related information is activated including product information, label format, whether it is a fixed or standard weight, and the unit of measure in pounds or kilograms. When the product is presented to the scale, the correct label is printed, and you are ready to weigh again.
Carlisle Technology ensures a synchronized solution that utilizes off-the-shelf hardware components that are coupled with advanced labeling software. Carlisle Technology provides an accurate, effective, and streamlined solution for a processor’s weighing and labeling process on the plant floor. One thing that separates us from the competition is our in-house 24/7 support services.
Following these steps will help reduce labeling errors in food manufacturing. If you haven’t invested in your labeling process or have more questions, reach out to one of our experts and discuss how you can implement labeling improvements at your facility.
If you have any questions on food weighing and labeling solutions, we would love to hear from you. Give us a call and our experts can help you select the correct weighing and labeling solutions and guide you through the implementation process
Written by: Joe O’Keefe, Account Manager – Carlisle Technology
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