Tag Archives: food manufacturers

Food Transparency No Longer an Option

By Maria Fontanazza
No Comments

As consumers demand to know the “who, what, when, where and how” of products they purchase, companies must focus on bringing honesty to the table to build trust.

Consumers are becoming more informed about the dangers of certain ingredients and the presence of allergens and pesticides in food. In the future, virtually the only way companies can build and retain consumer trust is through providing transparency in the food chain.

“Transparency will no longer be an option,” says John Keogh, president and principal advisor at Shantalla Inc. “Food businesses have to commit themselves to transparency as the only way to demonstrate to the market how customer-oriented they are.” Keogh discussed the need for companies to be forthright not just about what is in food, but also the entire product journey—the who, what, when, where and how—during a recent webinar by the GMA Science and Education Foundation, “Transparency in the Food Value Chain”.

Drawing on examples such as the horsemeat scandal in Europe, trust is quickly lost when dishonesty rears its head. “We need to bring a level of honesty and ethics into supply chain transparency,” says Keogh. This includes disclosing where the product is made or grown, including the state, in the case of the United States; the province, in the case of Canada; and where Japan is concerned, the prefecture. A recent example is Taiwan’s plans to require prefecture labels of Japanese food imports following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, which has raised significant concerns over radioactive contamination in food.

As the supply chain becomes increasingly global and more complex, several factors are compelling transparency. Regulations that address food safety, security, defense, and fraud will all have an impact. The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) under FSMA will put pressure on the nearly 200 countries that import products into the United States. According to Keogh, there are 220,000 importers on record, and they have about 300,000 facilities, all of which must be inspected under the FSVP mandate. In Europe, the EU regulation 1169/2011 requires the disclosure of more information to consumers, including mandatory origin labeling of unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry, mandatory nutrition labels on process foods, and disclosure of allergens in the ingredient list. Companies will also need to consider requirements for Halal and Kosher foods.

Technology plays the key role in driving consumer awareness and demand for more information, but Keogh notes there is a gap between consumer expectations from a data perspective and the ability of companies to actually deliver this data. He offers some examples of emerging technologies that companies can use to facilitate supply chain transparency. Sourcemap is a supply chain mapping solution that allows companies to link from their raw materials sites to the end customers. Companies can generate reports from various metrics and identify the weak links in their supply chain. Trace One is a product lifecycle management solution that has a focused module for transparency. The company also recently announced the first B2B social network for supply chain transparency as well as the full alignment with GS1 standards and embedding fTrace into its platform. Manufacturers using Trace One have visibility on all of their ingredients, suppliers and facilities, and can search for products that may be affected by an ingredient or facility problems related to a recall, for example.

“Food chain transparency has the potential to create new business opportunities for retailers and manufacturers,” says Keogh. Moving forward, companies will need to have a foundation of standards, specifically GS1 Standards, and use them at a deeper level to enable interoperability between the technologies that supply chain partners use. Keogh urges companies to think beyond food safety and food quality to value-based transparency to increase value not just for the end consumer but also for supply chain partners. This will also involve ensuring privacy of data surrounding pricing and proprietary information.

FST Soapbox

The Fiscal Cliff’s Impact on Food Safety Management and FSMA

By Timothy Lozier
No Comments

One of the key areas that stands to lose in the fiscal cliff lies in food safety. We may be looking at a food chain that is less safe in 2013 that it is now.

The fiscal cliff is a series of tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. It also would mean that spending cuts would take effect, which would have an impact specifically on Food Safety in the United States.

One of the key areas that stands to lose in the fiscal cliff lies in food safety. If we indeed fall off this fiscal cliff, there will be an 8 percent cut in spending for plant and animal health inspections, equaling about $70 million in cut funding. The Food Safety and Inspection Service agency could stand to lose about a billion dollars from their budget. We are also looking at about $3 million in spending cuts on inspectors. This means less food inspectors in the field, and as a result, less inspections. We are looking at a food chain that is less safe in 2013 that it is now.

FSMA: Still alive?

The other question that comes into play is whether the ever-delayed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is going to continue its path to law. We all know the delays that the FSMA has encountered since its introduction and passing in 2010. Now that the election is over, the administration seems more committed to the law than ever before.

However, this does not mean that we will see much movement in the coming year. The Office of Management and Budget has stated they plan to release the rules of the FSMA in early 2013, with a 60 day period of public comment. Once that is completed, FDA will take about a year or so to incorporate any public’s comment into the final rule. After that, other agencies will need to review these rules and approve them to actually make it into law.

So, it’s a year for FDA, and a year for other agencies – provided we don’t have any issues (which we will), we’re looking at 2015. More realistically, we’re looking for 2016-2017 timeframe for the FSMA to become a law.

That’s if we don’t see cuts stemming from a fiscal cliff disaster. The Obama Administration seems committed, stating “…We are working as expeditiously as possible to implement the food safety legislation we fought so hard for. When it comes to rules with this degree of importance and complexity, it is critical that we get it right.”

Law or not, food manufacturers are acting now

But whatever the result of government legislation and laws to be enacted for Food Safety Management, organizations are taking the necessary steps today to build processes that foster safer and higher quality food management. The Global Food Safety Initiative’s various schemes (BRC, SQF, IFS, etc.) are currently the gold standard for food safety in the industry today. Companies that are implementing these schemes are taking a proactive stance on food safety, and demonstrating a commitment to promoting safe quality foods in their operations.

Look at Canada

Canada seems to be on the right track these days. Just last month the Canadian government passed their food safety bill into law, which is a sister bill to the FSMA. The new law, which comes in the aftermath of a massive E. coli outbreak at a local farm, has many similar elements to what the U.S. is trying to do with the FSMA. The “Safe Food for Canadians” Act entails:

  • Better traceability in the food system, making it easier to recall products if safety issues arise somewhere in the food chain.
  • New record-keeping requirements for regulated facilities and more powers for inspectors to compel the production of documents in usable formats.
  • Tougher penalties for those who violate established safety standards, increasing maximum fines from $250,000 to up to $5 million, or even higher at the court’s discretion.
  • Registration for all importers, to add a greater degree of certainty to the food safety system.
  • More authority for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to certify exporters, if required by other countries to facilitate trade.

There’s obviously more to the bill, but the highlights emphasize a tighter control and enhanced visibility to an organization’s Food Safety Management System, and their supply chain.

Take aways

Food Safety is under threat in the United States – spending and budget cuts are going to make a harder environment for promoting Food Safety;

The FSMA is still alive, but there’s a long road before we see any results on the dinner table;

GFSI still remains the key compliance area holding Food Safety processes together; and

Canada has made some movement into promoting Food Safety at the Federal level.

I sincerely hope that 2013 gives us a better view on Food Safety Management than it seems to be right now. But if not, it’s up to the producers to promote their continued commitment to adhering to the compliance standards that help them to operate a safe environment and produce the safest possible products for the food and beverage industry.

 


About the Author: 

Timothy Lozier is the Manager for Marketing and Strategy at EtQ, Inc., in Farmingdale, N.Y. Tim has extensive experience in the software industry, and has been involved in the creation of leading-edge technologies in user interface design and development. Tim began his career on Madison Avenue working for several digital marketing firms, before taking a turn into software design and marketing at Quark, Inc. Contact Tim at tlozier@etq.com.
FST Soapbox

The Private Food Label Dilemma

By Barbara Levin
No Comments

Prevention-based food safety and quality assurance technologies have a good return on investment, and may be critical to the ongoing financial health of the food private label industry.

Tuesday morning I had my typical breakfast while running out the door – Trader Joe’s almond butter on a toasted whole grain waffle. Good, and good for you, as my mom likes to say. Then of course I got to my desk, looked through my daily FSQA news feeds, and saw that the peanut butter recall was expanded to almond butter – and to other brands besides Trader Joe’s from the supplier, Sunland!

Well so far so good – I’m healthy and not in a high risk group, but it did make me think once again about the problem for food retailers that – in the need to remain competitive for shelf space in their own stores – have turned to private labeling for more and more products store-wide.

I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s.  I buy a lot of their private label brands – everything from almond butter, to tomato sauce to olive oil. And they did a good job of aggressively getting the tainted nut butters off of their shelves.

But it does make one think of the added challenge for those manufacturing and selling private label goods – where a manufacturer problem can create a huge negative impact on your private label brand. Obviously in cases such as the Sunland nut butters, the ability to trace where the product had gone was key for recalling it. And while that ability is critical – the initial damage to the private label brands is done. Now, it’s just a matter of how extensive the damage is and how much it will cost to repair: loss of inventory, loss of sales, loss of consumer confidence and of course the cost of illness and related lawsuits which have already begun to follow.

And this doesn’t count the non-direct costs – such as advertising to eventually get those customers back – those who may now be “private label shy” and go back to the brand names under the perception that they may be safer.

We challenge the industry to look not just at reactive measures – but proactive, preventative measures as well. How are you leveraging food safety and quality technology? Are you using technology only to trace back once a problem has already occurred? Or are you also using technology to help prevent contaminated ingredients from going into production – and non-compliant finished goods from being labeled and shipped – in the first place. Are you as retailers putting this extra pressure on your manufacturers to take not just the reactive steps but the proactive ones as well?  

Prevention-based food safety and quality assurance technologies have a good return on investment, and may be critical to the ongoing financial health of the food private label industry. Have a thought on this topic? Join the conversation by posting a comment below.