Generally, the food safety industry has embraced the “one-up and one-back” (OUOB) system to manage its traceability, allowing it to know where products came from and where they’re being sent or sold. However, this process lacks visibility in that users can only be sure of the last place their product was, and where it goes next in the multifaceted food supply chain.
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While OUOB has been the go-to traceability method for many food companies, whole-chain, end-to-end traceability offers ideal safety and transparency—in line with the direction the food industry is fast-tracking towards. The value of seeing the entire past and future of each product is that companies can easily verify the safety practices of their suppliers, the origin and authenticity of the ingredients, as well as be aware of potential allergens.
This is end-to-end traceability has been driven forward in light of the changing regulatory landscape with the introduction of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), and GMO Labeling Bill.
FSMA impacts all levels of the supply chain, pushing restaurants, retailers, suppliers, distributors and growers to bolster their safety and traceability practices. Four main criteria of FSMA include preventative controls to minimize risk of foodborne illness, supplementary inspections, enhanced partnerships with laboratories and institutions to help streamline mandates, and more stringent import safety requirements for foreign suppliers.
Given the increasingly complex food supply chain, traceability across the entire spectrum is critical for effective recall management and complying with these firmer mandates. With FSMA taking effect, companies can no longer lean on other parts of the supply chain when dealing with a contamination or quality issue—the brand is more on the hook than ever.
In terms of data management, some organizations record information within spreadsheets, while others stick to paper and physical file cabinets. Without a universal, whole-chain traceability software solution, tracking down the necessary information in a timely manner can be a daunting task resulting in delays that could put consumers’ lives at risk, as well as put the brand’s reputation and credibility in jeopardy.
Implementing an end-to-end traceability platform across the supply chain spectrum is critical for effective recall management, as well as to maintain product quality and integrity under FSMA. For high-risk foods especially, it is essential to have visibility into every stopover of the product’s journey to the consumer.
A large part of the supply chain is located abroad, as 15 percent of all U.S. food is imported including 50 percent of fresh fruits, 20 percent of fresh vegetables, and 80 percent of seafood—all generally considered high-risk foods. As a facet of FSMA, the FDA is rolling out the FSVP stipulation. FSVP shifts the burden of certifying the safety of imported food from the FDA to the importers themselves, requiring brands to ensure that their foreign suppliers are complying with the FDA requirements of domestic suppliers.
Under FSMA and FSVP regulations, food safety and supplier documentation is imperative to demonstrate a company’s food safety plan and verify the safety of supply chain partners, especially foreign suppliers. These records must be compiled within 24 hours of an FDA request and maintained for a minimum of two years. In line with FSVP, the FDA can stop an import if the foreign supplier appears to violate any domestic mandates, such as Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls or Major Food Allergen Labeling. Using a supplier management software or a food safety management system to trace and track all partners and products can help automate these requirements to simplify safety processes and documentation, even when suppliers are located overseas.
Transparency is no longer an added bonus when buying groceries—there is a massive movement around farm-to-table, non-GMO, and sustainably grown food, and this trend has now been reflected on a federal level by way of the GMO Labeling Bill.