With the finalization of all rules that make up the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and compliance dates already in effect for the Preventive Controls rules for large companies, one common denominator stands out amongst them all: the increased need for supply chain transparency.
Transparency and FSMA
Due to innovation and a more globalized supply chain, food manufacturers in this day and age continue to face major challenges when managing food safety programs. And with FSMA now requiring a more proactive approach to food safety, it is simply implied that companies will need to become more transparent, requiring a more comprehensive view into their entire supply chain, something many companies struggle with.
Transparency helps to reduce and eliminate risk across the entire supply chain. That’s not a secret. Companies now, however, need to have access to and the availability of the full pedigree for all ingredients that go into any given product, as FSMA greatly expands the power of the FDA to require transparency from companies with requests for more detailed record sharing, supplier verification, etc.
Simply tracing the supply chain “once back” and “once forward” is no longer effective and won’t cut it for regulation purposes. Companies need to have all the documentation starting from the ingredient’s point of origin to once the product hits its end destination, which includes all the interim steps along the way.
Take cashews for example. They are largely grown and harvested in Africa, then shipped to Vietnam or India for processing (deshelling, cleaning, sorting), shipped to the U.S. to have a “kill step” applied, then sold to a distributor or manufacturer. Both the distributor and manufacturer need to have all documentation from all steps and locations listed above.
A fully transparent supply chain extends visibility all the way to suppliers’ shipping docks, which helps to ensure every piece to the supply chain puzzle has adhered to FSMA guidelines and best practices when it comes to minimizing the potential for contamination.
In the case of the cashews, without an ability to track and trace the entire process, it is nearly impossible to ensure that contamination has not occurred at some point along the journey. But by utilizing technology, food and beverage companies can increase the transparency of the supply chain.
In addition to meeting regulation requirements, it’s no secret that consumers have had an increase in demand for transparency from food and beverage companies in the past few years. And at this point, that demand has been made loud and clear, as new cases of foodborne illness and recalls fill newsfeeds. An argument can be made, however, that with better detection processes and with companies taking more proactive approaches to food safety, an increase in the amount of recalls is due to these practices. It’s not necessarily that there are more recalls due to unsafe food, but rather, we’re catching potential issue more frequently, which is a good thing.
True transparency is compounded in this day and age by the existence of numerous social platforms and accessibility to information online. In this culture, feedback moves quickly, access to information is right at your fingertips, and open source is expected. So to consumers, there really is no excuse when it comes to lack of transparency within supply chains.
Steps to Increase Supply Chain Transparency
1. Create a Map
The first step you can take to help create a more transparent supply chain is to create a high level roadmap of your current supply chain workflows and your internal operations within each plant. This helps to identify potential risks and gaps where additional information is necessary.
2. Foster Open Communication
It’s important to keep your suppliers in the loop on your future and current verification procedures to ensure all downstream and upstream partners within the supply chain are fully aware and understand the risks associated with a safety failure. If you are aligned with your suppliers and treat them as partners, all parties will experience higher success rates, decreased risks, and enhanced collaboration and innovation.
3. Invest in Technology
Investing in some form of technology can help simplify the entire process. The key here is having a system in place that makes it easy to view your suppliers and analyze any risk factors. This not only helps you to mitigate risk, but also helps the supplier be fully aware of the product they are providing you.
With the right technology, it's easier for you to notice if a particular ingredient is out of spec from one of your suppliers. This takes us back to the second point we made in regards to open communication. If something is out of spec, you want to be able to easily communicate that with your suppliers and get the issue resolved. Technology, like TraceGains’ automation software, can help keep that line of communication flowing easily and effectively.
Transparency is not only important to fostering trust and brand loyalty with consumers, it’s also a key factor in ensuring you meet all requirements and regulations.
Subscribe to Our Blog
Enter your email address below: