Labels Assured, Products Secured
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April 15, 2019

Labels Assured, Products Secured

The integral role of security labels in upholding food safety

By Kelly Smith

In 1982, a string of cyanide-laced Tylenol capsules left seven individuals dead, shaking consumer trust in the safety of consumable goods, and ultimately, revolutionizing the security labels industry. At the time, no product protection features were in place to prevent shoppers from altering unpurchased goods, allowing nefarious actors to compromise items without leaving any outward signs of tampering. In the wake of this unprecedented attack, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its first-ever regulations for tamper-proof packaging of over-the-counter drugs, starting a ripple effect that spread to all consumable goods—particularly food and beverage products.

Take a stroll down your local grocery store’s isles and the evidence is in the packaging: “Don’t purchase if seal is broken”, “Don’t purchase if misaligned”, “Don’t purchase if cracked”. Security features like these are now a staple of nearly every food item, and their prevalence remains steady. Between 2018 and 2027, the security labels industry is projected to expand to a CAGR of 5.3%, with the food and beverage packaging segment expected to heavily dominate the market.

While tamper-evident features are integral to the security label, the right labeling solution comes down to more than physically securing products. Rather, serialized security labels also act as a bridge to the digital world, providing a valuable record-keeping system that can trace the origin and whereabouts of any food product—from the field, to the factory, to store shelves, and beyond.

A Record of Ingredients & Integrity

What ingredients are in a final food product? With nutritional labels adhered directly onto packaging, the answer seems simple enough. Yet, when it comes to a recall, companies need to know more than the amount and type of ingredients in a given item—they need to be able to target with certainty and precision which specific ingredients made it into which products.

For many companies, such insight is beyond the capabilities of their security labels, which were optimized to make tampering evident but not to store specific, ingredient-level data. In these cases, a food recall requires most—if not all—items on the market to be disposed of, costing companies millions. Yet, when a security label goes beyond a tamper-evident seal and can also be serialized and correlated to field and factory records, it can act as a valuable trove of insight into each food item’s genealogy. In the event of a food recall—after the origin of contamination is identified—advanced security labels like these empower companies to execute highly-targeted product recalls. This not only minimizes the cost of a recall, but it also conveys to the market a sense of control and transparency that protects brand equity.

A Record of Distribution & Diversion

Not every food item is as it seems. In fact, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, $10-$15 billion food and consumer products are counterfeited globally each year. In the case of food and beverage, rampant rates of counterfeiting not only erode companies’ bottom lines, but also threaten the health and safety of the end consumer.

While tamper-evident labels allow customers to verify a product was not opened, they prove flawed if products are diverted off factory lines and into gray markets. Once removed from the appropriate channels, these food items are no longer monitored and managed in accordance to government standards for safety—opening a window for contamination during transportation, distribution, or storage.

Enter the serialized security label. With data-rich entries housed in a Blockchain-enabled database, serialized labels allow companies to recognize each and every product that has been removed from approved channels in real time. In turn, organizations can notify customers of compromised goods’ lot numbers before issues ever arise. This proactive approach protects the end consumer while simultaneously enabling companies to target points of compromise and shut them down before they become sustained supply chain breaches. Even more, taking the extra step to be fully transparent can increase customer loyalty in the midst of crisis: 85% of people report they are more likely to remain loyal during a brand crisis to companies that have a history of being transparent.

So Much More than a Label

In today’s advancing technology landscape, the real value of a security label lies at the intersection of the physical and digital world. At Ashton Potter, we leverage our history of government-grade security printing to offer best-in-class security labels for the food and beverage industry. Paired with our advanced ProLinc™ technology solution, our security labels go beyond standard tamper-evident packaging, offering rich insight into product genealogy that empowers companies to maximize transparency and mitigate risk.

Want to secure your food items? With nearly a century of experience in high-security printing for the world’s most sensitive industries, Ashton Potter is your golden ticket.

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