Traceability efforts have one primary objective: Protect the consumer. To accomplish that goal, bakers and snack makers often rely on data management and packaging technology to have a full understanding of where their ­ingredients are coming from, what runs they’re going into and where they land once they head out the door.

“We do have the safest food supply in the history of the world,” said Ron Cardey, vice-president of sales and marketing for Kwik Lok Corp. “However, there are always ways to improve it. And recall management is a must-have for any socially responsible company.”

When thinking about recall management, data, labeling and barcoding impact everything from lot tracking ingredients when they come in to the bakery to the point when finished product is in the consumer’s hands. Today, baked foods need to be traceable at every point in the process.

Once finished products leave a facility, it’s important that a food manufacturer remain tethered to them.

Should a recall happen, a product’s shelf life may often dictate the speed and complexity with which it’s managed. For example, the recall of a shorter shelf-life product might be managed and over within a matter of hours.

label“In that case, it’s important that the recall is limited to only the affected product,” said Robert Burgh, president, Nexcor Technologies. “Without good labeling and barcoding — in particular, having the product lots clearly identified — you may end up with a recall that needlessly takes too much product and goes beyond mitigating risk and just becomes wasteful.”

For items that stay on shelves a bit longer, they could be pulled back before reaching consumers’ hands, but the recall must remain targeted so as not to lose that shelf space unnecessarily. In the case of a recall, the best way to do this is on the packaging.

In general, packaging plays a lot of roles.

“To a ­marketer, the package isn’t something just to put the ­product in, but it’s also the sales pitch,” Mr. Cardey said. “Our customers have to balance the need to trace and code products; they also have labeling regulations that take up real estate on the package as well.”

To address this, Kwik Lok’s bag closing machines are equipped with printers that can be used for any size bakery regardless of shelf life.

Similarly, Burford Corp.’s printer-friendly tape closure system allows for barcodes, Q.R. codes or any other type of print for traceability purposes.

“Technology has advanced from the days of only using time stamps or color coding,” said Mitch Lindsey, technical sales, Burford Corp.

While color-coded tapes are still a useful tool at the store level for quick reference when loading shelves, traceable data printed on the tape will allow a company to keep tabs on the finished product should it be recalled.

“From a bakery standpoint, you have better control over what you’re looking for on the shelf or out in the field,” Mr. Lindsey said.

The ability to follow a product out the door and through the supply chain is oversight that can provide much-needed comfort to a consumer. And a targeted recall will not only mitigate excessive product loss, but it will also provide a level of assurance to consumers who can know almost instantly if an adulteration has affected the specific product at their store or even in their own kitchen.

“One benefit in distribution is that, say, you’re doing a long production run,” Mr. Burgh said. “You’d be able to know which specific box or case was affected by a recall. You’d be able to know what specific customer it went to. That way, you cut down the size of the recall to the barest minimum. Instead of having to pull it all back, you would know the specific range and unambiguously where it went.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2019 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on labeling and barcoding, click here.