By Melissa Lind, contributing writer
Despite FDA silence, some private-sector organizations are taking supply-chain management education initiatives into their own hands
It has been nearly a year since the FDA closed the public comment period on Pilot Projects for Improving Product Tracing along the Food Supply System — a 2012 pilot study conducted by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT). Following the study, IFT had made recommendations to the FDA regarding the need for greater food traceability standards. There has been a lot of industry pushback against the recommendation to expand reporting requirements beyond high-risk food such as seafood and meats. Most of the objections, it seems, are based on the fear that the FDA will require documentation that does not fit with current and developing electronic systems.
Despite the objections and the FDA’s silence since the comment period closed, food producers are moving forward with more electronic documentation and industry is looking to non-government organizations to provide solutions. A number of recent training programs have appeared on-line to help companies with development and implementation of greater supply-chain management and documentation, particularly in the fresh food arena.
GS1, one of the most prominent organizations in supply chain management, is, as always, front and center in technology advances. The U.S. division of GS1 has created the Seafood Traceability Readiness Program and the Dairy, Deli, Bakery Traceability Readiness Program. Both programs include webinars, interactive tools, training resources, and a community group to share best practices in food supply chain management and tracking. Additionally, the Produce Marketing and Canadian Produce Marketing Association, in partnership with United Fresh, GS1 Canada, and GS1 U.S., have introduced the produce identification module. This initiative helps users learn the importance of electronic identification means for produce items and the new traceability module demonstrates the benefits of traceability practices and outlines the core elements needed for such programs.
Achieving Global Certification In Food Safety & Quality
While electronic-data labels have been in use for years for non-perishable items, the tracking of fresh foods is still a ways behind. For most food producers, electronic labeling and tracking is new territory for perishable items around the perimeter of grocery stores — seafood, dairy, meats and bakery goods — but, the good news is that some large manufacturers and retail food vendors are jumping on the bandwagon to use electronic tracking methods for fresh products and there has been some talk of offering consumers a smart-phone app to track a product’s genealogy.
If electronically tracking the supply chain can be shown to improve profit margins by eliminating waste, the practice can move from a must-do regulatory issue, to a must-have tool for inventory management. Inviting consumers into a virtual relationship with this endeavor would also serve as a bonus to customer loyalty.