Covectra unveils infant formula serialization platform

Infant formulaUS traceability specialist Covectra has launched a serialization-based system for protecting infant formula from counterfeiting.

This system is based on the application of a serialized unique barcode to the bottom of the can and all levels of packaging (case and pallet) so that it can be tracked through the supply chain, an approach the company has already applied successfully in other industries including pharmaceuticals.

Infant formula has become a focal point for concern about the integrity if the supply chain, particularly in the wake of the 2008 scandal in China in which formula products were found to be contaminated with melamine, killing six children and leaving thousands more very ill. 

That resulted in increased government regulation and monitoring of the infant formula industry - including a massive increase in demand for western products in favour of local Chinese brands - as well as a series of draft guidelines and regulations.

Among the proposals was a requirement that each primary package of infant formula would have to have a unique, serialised code from January 2015.

Covectra said its system has been developed "to meet the increasing need for brand and supply chain integrity of infant formula, particularly given the recent increase of illicit trading activity and supply chain leakage in markets such as China."

The technology also enables track and trace and diversion detection of these products through the supply chain and into the hands of the consumer.

A database is used to generate and manage all serial numbers, including all events (e.g. scans) associated with that barcode, and a packaging line serialization system using open software architecture and Rockwell Automation technology prints and verifies barcodes on each level of packaging.

A downstream supply chain traceability system can be used to track products throughout the distribution system, and to detect incidents of grey market diversion, according to Covectra.

The company's president Steve Wood said managing food safety standards across a global supply chain is "complex and challenging". However, he added that "steps must be taken to ensure safe and secure shipping and distribution of food products that end up in consumers' hands."

"Our solution was developed to offer a means to identify a brand’s authenticity and to enable visibility of products throughout the supply chain," said Wood.

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