By Melissa Lind, contributing writer
Today, traceability demands are escalating on food producers. Regulations are becoming increasingly-strict and customers want to know more about the food they are consuming. Ensuring visibility in you company’s supply chain can be seen as a daunting task, but it can also be looked at as an opportunity
The demands on today’s food suppliers are ever-increasing. Savvy consumers want higher-quality foods in a greater variety, faster, and at a low cost. However, they also want to be able to identify ingredients, packaging origins, how the food was produced, and finally transported. In the past, traceability has been viewed as something of a liability in terms of cost and complexity. New regulations have made traceability mandatory, but traceability can provide new strategies for enhancing efficiency and uncovering new opportunities.
Understanding And Complying With Regulations
First, all participants in the supply chain must understand and comply with relevant regulations, such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enacted by the FDA. These, and similar regulations, have shifted the focus from response and recall to prevention. Food must be traced downstream to speed necessary recalls, but it also must be traced upstream to identify any source of contamination. Upstream tracing helps identify what other products might be affected, but it can also identify who is truly at fault, which may have legal ramifications.
Integrate Visibility In The Supply Chain
Making sure that all members of the supply chain are following and utilizing traceability measures is essential in guaranteeing the safety of food products. This requires that all members of systems of different levels must be able to integrate with other member systems — often in different countries, different languages, and with different requirements. As simple data points, such as shipping temperature, can have significant impact on timetables and product availability, it may be beneficial for large, downstream suppliers to provide support to smaller, less-functional, upstream suppliers. International standards have helped to organize and ensure traceability, but some members may still need assistance. Aiding those suppliers may prove to be cost-effectiveness in the long term.
Uncovering New Opportunities
Traceability and enhanced supply-chain visibility naturally ensures that regulations are met, but the greatest benefit may be in the ability to identify areas where efficiency can improve. Managers can quickly respond to market changes — making certain products available in regional areas more quickly or slowing down production in other areas to concentrate on a better product for that area — offering an advantage over competitors that can’t respond as rapidly.
Investment in supply-chain visibility and traceability methods not only ensures that food processors don’t get called out with regulatory non-compliance or costly recalls, but it can increase the bottom line through cost savings and market targeting.