Supermarkets are increasingly issuing challenges to food manufacturers to improve the accuracy of the date coding and labelling of their products. The baking industry is no exception and bread manufacturers are being asked to apply vital data, such as batch codes and date codes, directly on to the bread bags, to ensure effective traceability throughout the product’s life cycle.

According to Gordon Wood, category technical manager of bakery at Tesco, automating the coding and labelling process is the way forward to eliminating incorrect date coding and packaging errors. “Speaking from experience in a number of categories, I believe you can never eliminate coding and packaging errors on products unless you remove the risks associated with human intervention. So ultimately, we would like to see intelligent, automated date coding and bar-code scanning systems, which will prevent the incorrect date codes and ‘wrong product in the wrong package’ scenarios.”

Cambridge-based supplier of coding and labelling systems Domino UK has introduced new features to its A200 continuous inkjet coder to enable direct coding of data onto the ends of the bread bags. Traditionally, most traceability information is coded on to the small label that is used to tie and seal the bread bags. However, once this tie is removed or lost, product traceability is also lost. The new Domino application coding onto the bag itself means that the code is permanent and cannot be removed or misplaced.

The A200 bread coder is now available with Domino’s recently launched environmentally-friendly ink formulation, the 191BK ink. This is ketone- and methanol-free and its low taint, low odour content makes it ideal for printing on immediate food wrapping in accordance with European legislation, without any contamination to the consumable inside.

Mr Wood continues: “Direct coding on to the ends of bread packaging has a number of advantages, both for supermarkets and customers. Supermarkets can increase availability with quicker shelf fill, with a reduction in direct product handling and staff costs. For the customer, the product reaches the shelves more quickly and is fresher, with less manual handling and less potential for product damage. They can see at a glance the best-before date codes on the bread, and the permanent nature of this coded packaging ensures the best-before code is not lost once the bread is opened.”

Domino UK has also improved the software capabilities of its A200 bakery coding solution to take into account the 24-hour shift patterns of bakeries, by allowing 24-hour running of batch coding without confusing between two different days, thus making operations as simple as possible. The software allows night production, which usually runs over two days from 9pm to 6am, but the code maintains the same date and time information. The enhanced A200 also offers an adjusted solvent recovery system designed to minimise solvent consumption in warm production environments such as bakeries.

The enhanced A200 bread coder also offers temperature-controlled print heads for optimum ink stability and quick dry time, high-quality coding of up to four lines of code in several formats including text, logos, automatic serial or batch numbering, as well as real-time clocks.