Improving dietary supplement traceability

ABB Australia Pty Ltd

Tuesday, 17 March, 2020

Improving dietary supplement traceability

Manufacturers of dietary supplements are encouraged to trace every ingredient through their supply chain. Tatjana Milenovic, global head of the food and beverage segment at ABB, explains how producers and manufacturers can improve traceability in dietary supplement production, to ensure that only high-quality supplements enter the market.

There has been a significant growth in the consumption of dietary supplements across the Europe, with 51% of men and 65.8% of women in Denmark taking one or more supplements, according to ABB. This growth in supplement consumption must be paired with a growth in traceability from the dietary supplement industry, especially as the risk to consumers is high — a single mistake can cause potentially fatal consequences.

Though many dietary supplements contain naturally occurring ingredients, the industry has not been without scandal. Over the period of 2008 to 2011, the Government Accountability Office of the United States received 6307 reports of health problems from the consumption of dietary supplements. Subsequent testing of herbal dietary supplements found that 80% of tested products in fact contained chemical contaminants.

Fortunately, there are rules and legislation that producers can follow to improve traceability of dietary supplements, depending on the region in which production is located. Many technologies are also available that can help businesses improve traceability, save money and improve process efficiency.

The European Union’s (EU) Food Supplements Directive of 2002 requires that supplements be proven to be safe, both in dosages and in purity. Supplements must also be confirmed to be safe before they are sold in the EU without a prescription. As a category of food, the regulations regarding traceability and good manufacturing practices are governed by each member state’s internal regulations, and come under the remit of internal regulators. It is good practice for dietary supplement producers to trace every ingredient throughout their supply chain; fully understanding a supply chain will reduce the cost of a recall, and make problematic steps or points of contamination easier to trace. This would also reduce the number of products that need to be recalled.

Many internal regulators use good manufacturing practices (GMPs) that require a written record of traceability to be maintained; this can be time-consuming and prone to errors, as workers will only be able to record a snapshot of conditions, instead of being able to see the whole overview. Technologies such as manufacturing operation management (MOM) systems now allow producers to record this data and achieve deeper understanding of their product automatically. MOM systems record data from sensors, allowing producers to create digital passports for products that run through the production plant.

With ABB’s MOM system, manufacturers can break down a production plant into distinct steps that are recorded into the products’ digital passport. This allows plant managers to track the precise conditions of the product through the production process and identify when and where a potential contaminant has entered the system. Producers that use MOM systems can, therefore, state what is in their product, confirm that is has been maintained at safe conditions and, in the case of contamination, plant managers can determine how many batches need recalling. This is designed to increase the transparency of business operations and build trust with consumers.

Providing a clear line of traceability for dietary supplements will enable producers to create a strong and stable bridge of trust with consumers.

Image credit: © Prather

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