Product Recalls and Traceability in North America

September 27, 2012

Click the image to see the full infographic


[The following is a transcription of the above infographic discussing product traceability, the effect product recalls have within an industry and the importance of lot tracking as a business.]

Contaminated foods costs the US economy nearly $7 billion each year.  But what does this have to do with product traceability? Traceability refers to the capability for tracking goods along the distribution chain on a batch/lot number or series number basis.  Traceability helps companies effectively deal with product recalls (such as contaminated foods) in a multitude of industries. In the US alone, there was a total of 2, 363 recalls across all industries in 2011 – this amounts to about 6.5 recalls a day.  Industries affected include: cosmetics, vehicles, environmental, auto, medical, food, pharmaceutical, boats, and consumer products – essentially any industry you can think of!

Looking at the food and pharmaceutical/medical industry more closely, the number of recalls in Canada has increased for the past several years and Health Canada expects that the rate of increase will likely remain more or less the same.  In 2008 there were 206 recalls, 256 in 2009, 286 in 2010 and 298 in 2011.  In the US recalls are also continuing to increase and it is widely reported that over 20 million people have taken a drug that has eventually been recalled.  In 2008 there were 217 recalls, in 2009 there were 925, 390 in 2010 and 407 in 2011.

One of the biggest questions surrounding product recalls is who is responsible for managing product traceability.  The short answer is that all members of the supply chain are responsible.  This includes farmers, manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and vendors.  Every member is responsible for being able to track product shipments and easily recall harmful products.  That being said, according to the majority of statistics not very many executives are actively tracking their products.  More than half of executives surveyed (51.6%) said it would take them longer than 48 hours to execute a recall and only 48.4% said they could do it within 48 hours.   In terms of the greatest risk associated with the inability to track items along the supply chain, financial cost was the greatest at 28.1% with brand recognition (24.2%), consumer liability (18%), increased government oversight (12.5%) and loss of market share (11.7%) being the next greatest concerns.  In addition only 54.3% of executives would be able to recall a specific item/lot without impacting other items/lots and 59% of food facilities surveyed did not meet the FDA’s requirements to maintain records about their sources, recipients and transporters.

Lastly, recalls have a huge financial impact on individual businesses, consumers and the economy as a whole.  The average cost of a recall to food and consumer product companies is an estimated $10 million – this is in addition to brand damage and lost sales.  When it comes to consumer perceptions, 93% of consumers believe that a company’s ability to handle a recall indicated whether a company cares more about profits of customer safety and 87% of consumers are more likely to purchase from companies that manage recalls “honestly and responsibly”.

The above infographic was prepared by Blue Link Associates.  For more information on traceability download Blue Link’s whitepaper.

Blue Link and eCommerce: Your Gateway To Success

September 24, 2012

Guest blog by Josh Hines, Integration Developer at Demac Media

Blue Link is an extremely robust ERP system.  At the heart of it, I know it best as Inventory Software, dealing directly with the Blue Link ERP system, the Blue Link API, and even leading members of the Blue Link team themselves.  Our role in working together is too ensure not only that your data is correct on the Blue Link side of things, but also ensuring that your data is consistent and accurate on your own Magento driven eCommerce website.

success_babyMy experience with Blue Link is still rather new, but it doesn’t take more than a quick glance to see that just from the inventory side of Blue Link alone, there is a lot of information that you can store in your Blue Link ERP system.  All the typical data like price and weight, as well as some more advanced features such as giving one item multiple different sizes (and giving each size different prices and such as well).

Blue Link makes it very easy, for me, a data integration developer at Demac Media, to maintain your eCommerce website’s product data and inventory.  So, what a data integration developer do? Well I keep your product data updated on your eCommerce website.  Got a sale starting?  I get it on your site.  Got a new line of products to sell online?  I’ve got you covered.

Not sure your products will work with Blue Link?  Don’t despair! Blue Link is robust enough to fit every vendors needs.  On top of this, Demac Media’s Data Donkey is powerful enough to put your data integration needs into action.  I’ve had time to work directly with Darren Myher, the V.P. Operations and CTO, of Blue Link to ensure that a client’s needs between all three of our companies (Blue Link, Demac Media, and yours!) are well met, well-formed, and well understood.

The thing that amazed me most about working with Blue Link is how flexible they were in their installs and how willing they were to make a change to make a process on our side or the client’s side so much easier.  This was made possible by the incredible amount of attention to detail, and the great and consistent communication from Blue Link’s end.  When a change is made, the instructions are thorough and precise with visual representations.

Blue Link is a truly great product, spanning functionality across every facet needed for an ERP system.  You’ve got your inventory management software, and your accounting software at the core of it, and Blue Link offers extensive interactive tours of some of the features you’ll find within it.  Always working side by side to ensure that all your inventories are always at their correct counts, and all sales data is calculated properly.  They even offer to host your install of Blue Link on their own On-Premises server!  When it comes to eCommerce and data integration, these guys are at the top of the game.  They know what needs to be done to get your product information up and running, and Blue Link (as well as Demac Media) will help you out every step of the way to ensure your specific needs are met.


About Josh:

Josh Hines is a data integration developer for Demac Media.  Josh maintains data of many of Demac’s current clients, and is always working with new clients to get their specialized needs realized.

Getting Serious About Food Traceability

September 12, 2012

bar-code-scanAs mentioned in a previous blog post, governments and regulatory bodies are putting more and more pressure on individual companies to take proactive measures surrounding food traceability to help manage product recalls.  Unfortunately though, it seems that these governing bodies have not been enforcing food and medical traceability initiatives which has led to a recent lawsuit between two consumer groups and the US Food and Drug Administration and White House Office of Management and Budget.  Consumers are now getting involved by not only demanding companies properly track all products but that regulatory bodies actually enforce product traceability guidelines.

The suit comes as a result of the US government’s delay in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in January 2011.  The official complaint is that the FDA has failed to put 7 food safety regulations into effect and that the act has been “unlawfully delayed for more than a year and a half”.  This raises serious concerns for the safety of consumers, especially in the wake of recent food recalls this past year including Indiana cantaloupes that have been recalled as a result of 204 confirmed illnesses reported in 22 states[1].

The lawsuit hopes to impose a deadline on the FDA to fully enact FSMA regulations and it also hopes to prevent the OMB from delaying the FDA’s compliance.  Both consumer groups (the Center for Environmental Health and the Center for Food Safety) are outraged that “lifesaving laws” have not been enforced and that food traceability is still not being seen as a priority.

Hopefully this lawsuit will result in FSMA enforceability and as a result businesses implementing processes and technologies to track food products and help decrease the number of food recalls seen every year.

 For more information on food traceability, register for our upcoming webinar!



Lot Tracking, Traceability & Product Recall Webinar

September 6, 2012

Blue Link has hosted a webinar on traceability through lot tracking for managing product recalls. The webinar took place on:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

2:00-2:30PM Eastern

View the Webinar Now!

Things you will learn in the webinar:lot-tracking-traceability-product-recall-webinar

  • What is product traceability?
  • What industries does it apply to?
  • Food and Pharma/Medical Recall Statistics
  • Regulation Bodies in the U.S. and Canada
  • How regulatory bodies are enforcing traceability
  • Benefits of traceability
  • Traceability methods and next steps

Regulatory bodies such as the FDA and CFIA have recently launched initiatives to increase accountability for traceability and product recalls. Whereas in the past these organizations served primarily to set direction for the industries involved, they now seek to hold individual companies accountable for poor practices and levy large fines for those that do not follow their guidelines. This is why it is important, now more than ever, to ensure your organization is performing lot tracking that coincides with FDA and CFIA guidelines to ensure compliance and increase product recall efficiency.

Although Food, Medical and Pharmaceutical industries most readily come to mind when thinking about traceability, there are many other industries involved. For example, the auto and industry has a long history of product recalls, particularly children’s segments – not to mention the consumer goods industry as a whole. Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or retailer, it is your responsibility to ensure that the integrity of the supply chain is not compromised due to improper product tracking. If a nationwide recall were to take place right now, would you be ready?

Back to School – with mobile device

September 4, 2012

It’s the day after Labor / Labour Day – back to school (or for many, back to reality).  On the topic of school, I’ve been following a story about use of technology in high schools – specifically mobile technology like smartphones and tablets.

The debate seems to evoke strong opinions. Seems you either think that high school students should be completely cut off from portable devices in the classroom, or you think that texting should be woven into the fabric of every class.

Mostly, the arguments are quite simple and straightforward on both sides:

  • These devices are today’s equivalent of pen and paper – they’re part of reality and best integrated into the classroom, vs
  • Texting and browsing during class causes distraction, lack of focus, and jeopardizes the student’s ability to learn basic skills like writing

Of course there are many other arguments, but these seem to capture the essence of most.

technology-in-schoolsMy take on this is quite simple: why does it have to be all or nothing? In the real world, into which high school students will be dumped in 1 – 4 years, here’s what happens:

  • Many people (in Canada, most people) use smartphones and / or tablets daily for various tasks, work and leisure
  •  Most people know when to “unplug” and leave the devices alone (I haven’t seen too many people swimming with their iPad so far)
  • Those few that don’t get it (drive while texting, use their phone during a movie) are no different from the idiots when I was young who drove without seatbelts, or smoked during a movie in a no-smoking auditorium – if they didn’t have their smartphones, they’d find some other way to be inconsiderate or anti-social – and yes, they are in the minority.

I think that a common sense approach to mobile devices in the classroom would involve flexibility, teachers who do not feel threatened by the technology, and some absolute “unplug” rules that are enforced – like no devices during a discussion session or test, with the punishment for non-compliance being immediate confiscation of the offending device for a minimum of 24 hours. The rest of the time, students can learn to use these tools to enhance their learning and work, just like we so-called adults are trying to do in the workforce.

The bigger issue would be in lower-income (or mixed income) areas where some kids would show up with the newest tablet, while others in the same class can’t afford even a basic smartphone. That’s an issue that needs to be addressed anyway, to avoid a future where high school graduates are not up to date with basic technology tools used in everyday work – it’s a national productivity issue, and as such it’s incumbent on both government and business to find a way to make devices available during school hours to those students who cannot afford their own. But that’s a topic for a different blog post.

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