18th April, 2017

Labelling Solutions for the Meat Industry

The meat industry has a vast range of stringent control procedures to ensure batch traceability and safety of the product. In this sector, an efficient and effective coding process is essential.

The outbreak of mad cow disease between the 1980s and 1990s increased concern over food safety and the traceability of meat. The more recent horsemeat scandal – after which sales of beef dropped by 3% – shows that these concerns have by no means faltered.

Traceability is essential

Now, meat must go through a strict labelling procedure. It must be possible to track meat through all stages of the production, processing and distribution process to ensure high standards and traceability.

The guidelines for traceability in the meat industry are vast. The Compulsory Beef Labelling Scheme, in place since 2014, ensures that at all stages of the supply chain there’s a strict traceability control system.

This requires produce being labelled with a lot of information, such as:

  • Batch reference number
  • Name of the country in which the animals were born
  • Where the animals were raised
  • The name of the country in which the animals were slaughtered
  • The licence number of the slaughterhouse

These are just a few examples of the indications labelling systems must provide in adherence to the Compulsory Beef Labelling Scheme.

According to the Food Information For Consumers Regulation, all the information on products involved in the meat industry must have a minimum font size. Of course, basic information on pre-packaged foods such as the best before and use by dates is a must, as is the date of first freezing.

The vast amount of information concerning traceability and food safety alone necessitates a robust labelling system. Further requirements specific to this sector put untold demands on the coding and labelling machines used by businesses.

Washdowns and coding machines

Coding machines don’t just have to print a vast amount of complicated information in this sector, they have to do it in difficult conditions.

To limit the spread of food-based illness, regular washdowns are necessary in meat production plants in order to remove any hazardous products. Although this is undoubtedly beneficial to the process, it may increase the risk of machine damage.

During a washdown, many coding machines would have to be uninstalled and removed for their protection or protected using plastic bags. Although leaving the machine in place and protecting it saves time, it leaves it vulnerable to spray and steam.

Advanced printers such as the Zodiac HS are available in watertight variants and are able to remain in place during washdowns, ultimately saving time and money.

Changing regulations

It’s likely that the substantial list of regulations in this industry will change in the future. This means that in order to remain efficient, manufacturers should install coding equipment that is versatile and can easily adapt to new requirements.

Perishable goods

Any failure in coding can be particularly costly in the meat industry, where the perishable nature of the goods may mean that incorrectly labelled products must be disposed of. Having a machine that’s easy to use in the first instance minimises this risk.

Cruga Biltong has seen first-hand the benefits Interactive Coding Equipment can bring to a meat processing environment. Their case study provides more information as to how we can help bring efficiency and innovation to this uniquely challenging sector.

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