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Traceability of food

Quality backwards

Acting responsibly is important when it comes to food distribution. Warehouse and forwarding staff must respond quickly and precisely and they must adhere to strict standards and guidelines in the event of product recall. Sophisticated IT systems and well-designed processes are needed in case of an emergency.

"The Nagel-Group places great importance on quality during recall process as it does with the daily distribution of goods", says Hendrik Reinelt, Head of Corporate Quality Management at the Nagel-Group. Customers expect a high degree of responsibility even in the event of product recall. Concrete measures have to be taken immediately to avoid greater losses.

Recall of food products: more than 80 warnings issued since 2012

Announcements or reports on product recalls by different companies are not uncommon: foreign objects such as glass fragments and plastic parts in products; contamination by bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli; or spoiled goods resulting from a wrong best before date. These require companies and logistics providers to act with urgency.

Logistik Rückverfolgbarkeit
All directly or indirectly affected departments, like warehouse or forwarding department, are involved in the process of delivery stop.

The Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety in Germany announced more than 80 current warnings in its portal for food warnings in the past four years. Created in 1979, RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed) enables the European Union to disseminate information on food safety. It sent out a total of 775 warnings last year resulting in prompt actions such as recalls.

Recalls are regulated by clear accountability

Companies have to recall defective or dangerous products as soon as possible in order to protect their customers. Legal provisions and internal procedures have to be observed in case of a delivery stop to avert or minimise imminent loss. Working instructions are based on the Regulation (EC) No 178/2002. They apply to all stages of food distribution.

All directly or indirectly affected departments, like warehouse or forwarding department, are involved in the process of delivery stop. The working instructions state that all goods-in and goods-out as well as relevant suppliers and commercial buyers must be traceable. This allows initiation of comprehensive actions in case of emergency. The customer has to issue all instructions, in principle, in writing. Individual steps in recall also have to be documented, and produced upon request.

Measures taken during product recall: the process in the warehouse

"The process in warehouse is clearly regulated in the event of recall. First of all, the customer informs us about the problem, provides storage data, and notifies us about necessary measures. We then lock or block the goods and stop delivery or make arrangements for an immediate withdrawal. Speed counts," Hendrik Reinelt states. All customer specific requirements are stored in the system for a customised search of stock.

Warehouse staff reverse the removal of full pallets and packaging. They stop order picking and reorganise affected goods. They then label the entire available stock in the warehouse management system. They also physically label goods with blocked status. As a result, further order scheduling is stopped. Subsequently, the customer receives an overview of the blocked stock.

Top priority: continuous documentation of processes in all cases

Some customers request that the blocked stock goes back to production. "We then create a transport order which contains a written certificate of receipt of goods-in indicated by units for the forwarding department", Reinelt explains.

In other cases, customers instruct that the blocked stock be destroyed. A specialist company has to be instructed to carry out this task. All steps are documented in a destruction protocol.

Measures taken during product recall: procedure in forwarding department

The procedure in forwarding department is similar to warehouse: the staff block and label both unloaded consignments at the sending branch and also in the delivery note. Moreover, they inform the warehouse manager and planning department about the stoppage.

"If the consignment is already on its way, we contact the driver to try and stop delivery", emphasises Reinelt. If delivery cannot be stopped, the Nagel-Group retrieves the goods in accordance with the instructions provided by the customer.

Annual training and simulation of worst-case scenarios

In order to implement all actions as quickly and precisely as possible, employees of the Nagel-Group take part in a training, the contents of which are treated in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, at least once a year. "Additionally, we simulate a recall in worst-case scenario every year. The entire process chain is examined using this test. The annual trainings and simulations help our staff to act quickly and in the best interests of the customer in an emergency," explains Reinelt.

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