Is It Already Too Late to Take On Traceability?

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That’s a question not enough leaders in grocery retail are asking. The FDA’s landmark food traceability act will be finalized in November 2022, with a 2-year window to prepare. Is that enough time for you to modify the workflow and systems at your distribution centers, enhance communication with suppliers, update shipping and receiving recordkeeping systems, and change to store-level receiving procedures – including DSD? That’s what it will take to fully comply with FSMA 204.

Talk of traceability requirements has been ongoing for years, leading some to believe the November deadline is nothing to worry about. Industry skeptics think the FDA will make changes to the traceability list. While it’s true that traceability doesn’t have to be a source of stress, the reason why is not that it can be avoided or delayed. The truth is quite the opposite: in the not-too-distant future, all products will be subject to the new higher FDA traceability standards.

The coming changes are inevitable. The point is to be prepared with a flexible system capable of the intake and management of any item moving through your food supply chain, so that no matter what the FDA decides, you’ll be ready. The good news is that traceability can be implemented inexpensively and in a surprisingly short time.

The even better news is that being compliant with FSMA 204 is only one reason not to put off traceability any longer. Farm-to-table traceability—and the scores of added benefits it brings— is a key to achieving short-term and long-term goals for many retailers right now.


A Fresh Perspective

According to Supermarket News in their recent report “Grocery Retailer Expectations for 2022,” 56 percent of retailers who responded said they were planning to expand their fresh offerings. Similarly, 48 percent of respondents said they plan to increase their prepared foods offerings.

Many items in these categories are on the FDA’s Food Traceability List. They carry a higher risk of foodborne illness and a lower chance of being successfully recalled before store guests consume them.

Retailers who want to win in these areas will need to have a traceability system in place to protect their increased investment. The better their traceability, the faster they’ll be able to respond to recalls.

Retailers putting an increased focus on fresh and prepared foods without the accompanying traceability are playing a risky game. It’s an unnecessary gamble given how close they are to an easy victory.


Making Traceability Easy

Meeting the new standards of traceability can be achieved in a number of ways. One method is to build an internal solution. The timeline for actualizing such a system is dwindling every day. The other option is to trust the “work” to widely available state-of-the-art technological solutions.

Artificial intelligence and optical character recognition technologies, like those employed by ReposiTrak, can pull all of the data necessary to satisfy FDA traceability requirements. Existing shipping and receiving records —in any format—are provided and the technology does the rest.

ReposiTrak offers a practically turnkey system built on a network of 350,000+ suppliers. With strength in numbers, the cost of traceability is practically a non-factor. It’s not having a truly effective traceability system that could cost you—or may already be.


A Labor Solution

In recent months, labor has been a major national story. With some companies experiencing staffing shortages, some continuously hiring to maintain headcount and others looking for ways to run a leaner operation, labor has posed an array of problems. ReposiTrak can provide solutions to workforce issues. Especially those tied to traceability.

Responding to recalls exacts a heavy price. Product costs and labor costs are inextricably tied. ReposiTrak shortens recall time by quickly identifying where the problem lies and allowing the team on the front lines to promptly address it.

To see how beneficial this system can be, we don’t have to look far. For example, in the recent peanut butter recall, companies with advanced traceability systems had the necessary data at their fingertips to quickly identify which stores sold the products and which manufacturers use them as an ingredient in other products.

Further efficiency arises from ReposiTrak’s ease of use. New employees can be quickly trained, and experienced ones are freed up to focus on other important tasks, of which there is no shortage in the present market environment.


Helping Solve Supply Chain Issues Now

The longer companies wait to prepare for FSMA 204, the further behind the 8-ball they could be.

The grocery industry, like many others, has been impacted by recent supply chain disruptions. According to an article in California Grocer, a more resilient supply chain can be created through “technology upgrades and advances in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics.”

By harnessing the data FSMA 204 requires, ReposiTrak provides added visibility into the supply chain—all the way down to expiration dates, lot codes and other granular details.

Supply chain clarity allows better order planning and reduced waste, both of which can help reduce vulnerability to shortages.

Stability in a time of instability is something every business wants. Businesses that make traceability a priority now have a far better chance of getting it.

We take processes apart, rethink, rebuild, and deliver them back working smarter than ever before.