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3 Steps to Ensure FSMA Preparedness

Protect consumer and business health with data accuracy
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There are three clear steps companies can take to execute a path toward FSMA 204 compliance: review technologies, the new landscape and partners.

As the FSMA 204 compliance date – January 20, 2026 – approaches, companies have an ever-shrinking window to get everything squarely in place to ensure traceability across the supply chain by (ideally before) Q1 2026. Over the ensuing months, there are three clear steps companies can take to execute a path toward compliance: review technologies, the new landscape and partners. 

1. The Right Supply Chain Tech

Barcodes are one approach to technology-enhanced food traceability. Scanners, barcode readers and even robotics are part of the new automated warehouse. More retailers and distributors use new and robust data streams to track the chain of custody for the goods they sell. 

[RELATED: How Traceability Shortcuts Can Prove Costly to Food Safety]

One barcode-enabled approach that aids origin and custody tracking is the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). For companies already using barcode labels and readers, implementing these processes will be simpler than those still using paper-based manual processes. For those still working with the latter, implementing the right technology and processes will not only help achieve FSMA compliance, but will position you to be more competitive. 

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Another technology that many companies are turning to is traceability software. While it has robust capabilities when it comes to doing audits, these tools are often reliant on methods like vendor portals to capture all of the relevant information; if they don’t have it across every product, they won’t pass an audit.

To capture that information (and pair it nicely with existing software for a complete solution), companies can leverage electronic data interchange (EDI). EDI automates processes and communication both internally across departments and externally with trading partners. That automation helps companies better locate the affected shipments and their location, quickly identify any orders fulfilled from that location during the time of the contamination, and alert trading partners downstream.

2. Adapt to the New Grocery Landscape 

Technology is only one part of the equation to massive changes, such as those required by FSMA regulations. The most significant factor that impedes progress and change is a culture that’s grown used to things being a certain way. Improvisation or inattention can produce harmful consequences that affect a company’s bottom line. 

The job of maintaining compliance, both externally related to FSMA and internally related to accommodating it, is a complicated effort. Trading partners change their communication requirements often, which can cause interruptions or gaps in data acquisition. All of the automation, robotics, data and communication won’t help if an organization gets out of compliance, or if vital trading partners step out of compliance. 

[RELATED: Majority of Retailers Are Losing Operating Margin to In-Store Inefficiencies]

To guarantee that all of the information required is transferred appropriately, it’s important to establish full EDI compliance from trading partners. Testing and certification between a grocer and distributor or supplier to confirm EDI compliance ensures that the item name, lot number, expiration date, chain of custody and other vital product data is both sent and received. 

3. Taking Ownership

Expert, dedicated EDI staffers assume responsibility for the enablement and constant maintenance that EDI maps require, as ever-changing business rules grow even more complex, enabling grocers, distributors and suppliers to focus on the core competencies of their business.

When it comes to compliance, accountability and accuracy matter. Ultimately, a business has oversight only over its own input and output. What happens before a product arrives and what happens to it after it leaves is out of the hands of a grocer or distributor. Ensuring that the data from the supplier reflects exactly what was delivered, without error, is extremely important in the event of a recall. Accuracy is equally important when transmitting information about food products being sent further downstream in the supply chain, not only for the business’ operations and brand reputation, but also for the consumer’s protection.

With the right technology, adaptation and partners, supermarket retailers, grocers and food distributors can not only keep up with changes in the grocery supply chain, but also thrive in their midst. 

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About the Author

Brandon Pierre

As VP customer success at Minneapolis-based SPS, Brandon Pierre works with his team alongside many retailers, distributors and grocery suppliers to develop strategies that involve the exchange of data with trading partners to address their merchandising and supply chain business objectives. He has more than 20 years working in and with buying organizations of all sizes.
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