Tag Archives: transparency

Food Transparency No Longer an Option

By Maria Fontanazza
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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.

Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC
From the Editor’s Desk

Translating the Talk into Action

By Maria Fontanazza
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Maria Fontanazza, Editor-in-Chief, Innovative Publishing Co. LLC

With a little less than two months under my belt as an editor in the food safety industry, I have already started to become a bad dinner date and my hands beg for mercy as a result of my newfound obsession with soap and water.

Quirks aside, I am seeing some common threads in this industry, although they are themes we see in any highly regulated industry. Partnerships. Collaboration. Transparency. Alignment. Accountability. Now more than ever, these words mean something. FSMA has forced the issue of food safety to the forefront. Yet, we’ve barely begun and I’m already hearing the phrase “FSMA Fatigue”.

For the folks who have been involved in preparing for FSMA from the start, they probably are a bit fatigued. There have been many meetings, and there’s been a lot of talking surrounding what’s going to happen, what needs to be done, and what challenges we’ll face (in many cases, together). But let’s not forget that not everyone is as well versed on the nuances of the regulation. I admit, I am raising my hand here… for now.

Now let’s back up a couple of sentences. “There’s been a lot of talk…” Yes, there has been. While these are enthusiastic discussions about what we as regulators, food processors, retailers, suppliers, scientists and everyone in between should be anticipating with FSMA rules and the consequent implementation, HOW are we going to navigate this new frontier?

Let’s start this conversation now.

You’ll see a lot of changes to Food Safety Tech this year. We’ve already started the information exchange with industry stakeholders about how we’re going to work together to get through FSMA implementation and the tools we need to arm our audience with to help them along this journey. We also just announced our Call for Abstracts for the Food Safety Consortium Conference in November.  The Consortium will bring together leaders and regulators in this industry and facilitate a forum for that candid “how” discussion. Food Safety Culture will receive strong attention, and key players will be presenting a case history of how to apply metrics to food safety culture within organizations.

I’m excited to join this industry, and thank you to those who have already extended a warm welcome. And for the many who I have yet to meet, please drop me a note as you encounter challenges or have ideas about critical food safety topics. Our job at Food Safety Tech is to provide a platform through which we can enable a constructive dialogue about overcoming challenges, working together effectively, and navigating this journey into the future of food safety.

Maria Fontanazza