Grocery Industry Grapples With New Transparency Requirements
With a new presidential administration headed to Washington, D.C., next month, augmented by Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the implications for the food industry are on the minds of many.
The legislative and regulatory policies enacted in the past eight years — which include what is widely viewed as the most sweeping food safety updates since the 1950s, culminating in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — have been significant.
It remains to be seen whether the incoming president will completely dismantle, maintain or only tweak the existing rules and regulations. In the meantime, as retailers continue to refine and retool their food safety practices in the wake of the passage of FSMA, they’re running into issues related to compliance.
“The greatest challenge for retailers to ensure food safety lies in achieving total supply chain visibility all the way back to the farm or manufacturing plant,” asserts Angela Fernandez, VP of retail grocery and foodservice for Lawrenceville, N.J.-based GS1 US, leader of the GS1 US Retail Grocery Initiative and the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative. “Product traceability enables stakeholders to locate potentially harmful products within the supply chain in the event of a recall or foodborne illness outbreak. To do this, they need standardized data they can retrieve quickly and accurately — or precisely, to those products that truly need to be removed from shelves.
“The problem,” she continues, “is that while most companies have some level of traceability in place, some are further along in implementing standardized traceability processes than others, or are using proprietary systems that are not interoperable. Outdated, proprietary or paper-based systems that are not based on standards can lead to time delays during a recall, when time and accuracy are essential.”
She adds: “Retailers, as a community, also need to align their approach to product data requirements relative to traceability, so that suppliers won’t have to provide the same information in multiple ways to different customers. With enhanced traceability procedures, businesses can prepare for crisis situations and avoid the damage a widespread recall can inflict for months or even years afterward.”
Integral to transparency is an effective audit system.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets recently upgraded to PAR Technology’s SureCheck Advantage Solution, a state-of-the-art food safety and checklist system that captures required data in real time and synchronizes it to the SureCheck cloud for seamless, automated storage and recall of food safety records for management, maintenance, analytics and auditing, at all 95 of its stores.
Additionally, the Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program and ReposiTrak Inc., a subsidiary of Salt Lake City-based Park City Group and a provider of compliance management and track-and-trace solutions for food, pharma and dietary supplement safety, have joined forces to integrate SQF audit management into ReposiTrak’s compliance management system.
Notes Robert Garfield, SVP of the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), a division of Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute: “This is an exciting time at SQFI, as we look to roll out version 8 of the SQF Code, a new Retail/Wholesale Grocery Program, and start gaining extensive supplier and buyer use and support of our Ethical Sourcing Certification. We were looking for a technology partner to help us raise the bar not only with our data management and reporting, but also with upgrades to all of our user interfaces.”
By focusing on transparency, the grocery channel can ensure greater compliance with FSMA, as well as keep pace with a rapidly changing retail landscape.