Don't get caught without the right tech in a contamination crisis

When staring down the threat of a food contamination crisis, the right technology may just help you save lives and your reputation, says Doug Hunter, Head of Product Services for SYSPRO.

Johannesburg, 11 Jun 2018
Read time 4min 50sec

It's every food and beverage company's worst nightmare. Consumers are getting sick. The Health Department is knocking on your door and the brand reputation you've worked so hard to build is in tatters.

Food contamination is a constant threat when you deal with perishable food and beverage (F&B) products every day. It's typically not a matter of 'if' it will happen, but 'when'. Given the recent events in South Africa, it's a scenario which most companies won't find too difficult to imagine.

While the headlines may soon move on from the latest food contamination crisis, it will undoubtedly mark a period of change for the F&B industry.

No longer will the absolute minimum in food quality management be good enough and companies, big and small, will turn to tech to maintain the standards they seek.

Ask more questions about your ERP

They'll be asking more questions than ever about their ERP functionality and the standard of their system's batch management and lot traceability. Because, heaven forbid, they find themselves in the midst of a food contamination crisis with no way to recall the right products quickly and efficiently.

As soon as a potential health risk is detected, you need to be able to revert to your batch numbers, and quickly.

It goes back to batch numbers

If the problem is first detected at a restaurant, for example, you have to be able to go back and identify which batch of product that restaurant's orders were filled by. Once you identify the right batch, you need to be able to see where else that batch has been distributed and on which dates it was sent.

The process doesn't stop there, though. Because, how can you be sure it was the finished product that was contaminated and not one of the ingredients?

You have to know which ingredients were used in that batch. Many of these ingredients will have their own batch numbers so that you can drill down even further, identifying which batches of product were made using the affected ingredient.

It basically becomes a process of going up the supply chain to investigate the raw materials used, as well as down the supply chain to recall any products affected.

Efficiency is everything

It's the only real way to minimise health risk. And when the risk of having a contaminated product out there on retailers' shelves comes at the cost of an increasing number of lives lost, then you have to be very quick and efficient.

What's more, if you aren't able to trace exactly which products have been affected, you will end up recalling a much greater volume of product than necessary. This becomes very expensive.

It's safe to say conducting this process manually is simply not an option anymore.

Kicking quality up a notch

Perhaps even more to the point, the industry's overall standard of food quality management must improve, also a task for increasingly advanced technology.

At the moment, food authorities play an important part in ensuring certain standards are maintained, but this doesn't mean F&B companies can't and shouldn't conduct their own inspections. And ERP can assist with this as it allows you to schedule process inspection points, through which you can take samples and have them sent to the lab.

Similarly, when you receive raw materials from a supplier, you typically receive some form of certification for them. But to ensure a higher standard, you can also test your own samples.

Third time's a charm

Once all of the raw ingredients have been combined, you can then conduct further quality tests. Tests which are associated with a specific product and supplier should all be linked on the ERP so that you can prove certain tests were conducted, and passed, on certain days. Then, before you actually ship the product, you can double check whether all your previous checks were met to satisfaction.

Obviously, the more quickly and efficiently you can do this, the better your ability to reduce health risks and save money.

Having anticipated the growing need for rigorous checks and balances, SYSPRO has been working on enhancing the quality management module of its ERP system. Ultimately, the product will have better functionality, making it simpler for F&B companies to conduct thorough quality stream processes.

At the end of the day, you need to ensure you are asking the right questions of your ERP system. Not all of these systems have batch traceability, a major concern considering you may one day need it to help you save lives and your reputation.

SYSPRO is a global, independent provider of industry-built ERP software designed to simplify business complexity for manufacturers and distributors. Focused on delivering optimised performance and complete business visibility, the SYSPRO solution is highly scalable, and can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or accessed via a mobile device. SYSPRO's strengths lie in a simplified approach to technology, expertise in a range of industries, and a commitment to future-proofing customer and partner success.

SYSPRO has more than 15 000 licensed companies in over 60 countries across six continents.

For more information, visit

Editorial contacts
WE-Worldwide Karabo Motsoai (+27) 11 550 5400
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