|What’s Wrong with Our Tracking and Traceability System?|
The ever increasing rate and impact of recalls on the global food supply has drawn a lot of attention to food safety issues. While there are numerous challenges with tracking and traceability systems, there really are three fundamental issues that are critical for the industry to address:
• Growers have not been effectively integrated into the traceability network
• Traceability systems traditionally have focused on managing recalls and not on prevention
• The industry had not taken a consumer oriented view of traceability
Growers have not been effectively integrated into the traceability network
One of the biggest challenges traditionally with traceability systems has been in providing cost effective solutions that reach all the way to growers. The industry had applied significant dollars, standards and efforts around both food safety and traceability, but these solutions and efforts have traditionally been focused on the larger grower/packer/shippers, manufacturers and retailers, along with their largest suppliers. The small players in the industry have not been adequately provided solutions to address the same food safety and traceability challenges faced by the larger players. The most important part of value chain for traceability is to include the small growers. If one part of the chain has a food safety issue it impacts the entire food supply. It is not enough to focus our attentions, dollars and efforts on the larger players.
FoodLogiQ has developed an On Demand food safety and traceability software solution that incorporates the entire value chain including small and mid-sized grower/packer/shippers. By signing up on-line to the software, these companies can pay a monthly fee, thereby avoiding large capital investments while gaining access to the ability to identify their premises, order pallet, case and item labels (also without needing to procure expensive labeling equipment) and electronically share traceability information through the value chain. In addition, they can electronically order audits so that they comply with HACCP and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. Today, FoodLogiQ has over 90,000 growers/producers leveraging the software to share traceability information across the value chain.
Traceability systems today have focused on managing recalls and not on prevention
It is so important to take a holistic and prevention focused view of food safety. The first priority of traceability is to protect the consumer through faster and more precise identification of implicated product. However, to proactively identify issues, detect problems and prevent contamination in the food supply, traceability needs to be integrated into lab testing, audits and quality management systems along the entire supply chain.
FoodLogiQ uniquely has developed an On Demand software solution that automates traceability, audits, lab testing and quality management systems while eliminating manually intensive paper-based programs.
FoodLogiQ has partnered with auditors to provide their services to companies. In addition, companies can perform automated internal audits of their facilities and normalize data across locations proactively. Retailers or manufacturers can gain a consolidated view of the audits across their supplier base to see if they are meeting their food safety standards. A small case in point, a local food processor, called Grayson Natural Foods, wanted to supply to Wake Forest University. In order to do that, they needed to complete a supplier audit based on Aramark standards. A lot of these audits can be onerous for a small company because they don’t know what to do or where to go. FoodLogiQ software made it a relatively easy process to get the audit done and take corrective actions. As a result, Grayson not only secured the business with Wake Forest but has secured additional business with other universities.
Another challenge in the industry is automating highly manual-based quality management standards, including SQF and ISO 22000. Traditionally, auditors have to wade through stacks of paper to determine whether companies are complying with standards. With FoodLogiQ software, companies can go on-line and order the automated forms or take advantage of the monthly subscription fee to manage their quality management processes.
In addition, FoodLogiQ has launched a new initiative with rtech laboratories, a premier comprehensive food testing laboratory and research facility. Together, FoodLogiQ and rtech have partnered to integrate rtech’s 20 years of excellence in lab testing services into FoodLogiQ’s traceability and food safety software. The solution provides companies a single place to order lab testing services, compare results across facilities and link those results to directly to their traceability, quality management and food safety programs in a single On Demand software solution. In the case of the latest peanut butter recalls, a prevention focused approach the included providing more visibility into the audits and integrating lab testing to the audits and traceability program may have resulted in greater prevention.
By linking traceability with audits, lab testing and quality management systems, FoodLogiQ’s software makes it possible for manufacturers to track trends in their food safety efforts, identify trouble spots, and protect themselves and their consumers by eliminating mistakes.
The industry had not taken a consumer oriented view of traceability
We need to think from the consumer backward. Consumers typically expect their food to be safe, now that they are making a purchasing decision on what goes into the food, the source of their food, the product practices a company deploys and the differentiated claims companies make like organic, “natural,” and pesticide-, hormone- and additive-free. Being able to demonstrate these claims by implementing testing, auditing and traceability for ingredients and finished products through each step of the supply chain is what is now required. The key is being rigorous about collecting and verifying information from suppliers.
With FoodLogiQ’s MobileMarQit solution, companies can leverage text codes directly on a label so consumers can find out more information about the product including the products origin, who are the growers involved, when the crop was picked, etc. This can even extend to branding information, nutritional information—it all depends on the company and what they want to share.
If you are linking more value-added information and not just focusing on food safety, it can become a competitive advantage especially for those companies pursuing a differentiation strategy. Here, Eastern Carolina Organics is a good example because they are using the labeling solution for their organic local fruits and vegetables. They are using the technology to highlight the fact that their products are local and organic focusing on what matters to consumers. The fact that traceability is tied to it as well is a bonus for consumers.
The return on investment really comes in the form of access to new customers and new markets. Retailers, foodservice companies and manufacturers are mandating the compliance to the GFSI standards. Those companies who do not meet the GFSI standards or are unable to prove their claims about their products will not be able to supply to the Wal-Marts and McDonalds of the world. Those companies at the forefront of ensuring food safety are also focused on quality through differentiating their brands and proving their brand claims to consumers.
Kerry Farrell is the vice president of Sales & Marketing at FoodLogiQ.