Contributed by ReposiTrak Chief Customer Officer Derek Hannum
Gathering, creating and sharing key data elements (KDEs) for critical tracking events (CTEs) in the 16 required categories doesn’t have to be a headache. In fact, it can easily be accomplished while delivering a number of significant benefits to your business. Should you choose to go above and beyond the coming requirements, the positive impact will exceed expectations as well.
The FDA has sent strong signals that the 16 Food Traceability List (FTL)* categories are only the beginning. Before long, more categories will require the same level of traceability. The FDA has even encouraged industry-wide adoption of the new, more stringent requirements.
Additionally, many of the benefits traceability can bring are tied to an overlooked fact: recalls often involve products that are not even on the FTL. An internal analysis of recall data showed that of the top 10 recall categories in 2021 only five are represented on the FTL. Even with strict adherence to FSMA 204, companies will be just as vulnerable to recalls from a significant number of categories.
The ReposiTrak Traceability Network offers an easy solution. It scans your documents—in any format— using a proprietary combination of File Mapping, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. Together, these technologies extract the lot/batch codes (also known as the Traceability Lot Code or TLC) and other pertinent information. Then, our system digests that information to create an FDA-ready KDE record, using the TLC as the connecting element between all previous steps in a food product’s journey.
By implementing these state-of-the-art traceability measures now on a comprehensive scale, you’ll achieve FSMA 204 compliance, you’ll be ready when the FDA formally adds more categories and you’ll be among the industry leaders in traceability—all for minimal cost and effort. Once our system is in place, it’s easy to apply to additional categories.
Regardless of how broad a traceability net you choose to cast now, FSMA 204 compliance is only one reason of many to proactively pursue traceability.
Shorter Recalls. Lower Expenses. Greater Speed.
It can take months to determine the origin of recalled products. The time and effort devoted to tracking a contaminated item’s journey can exact a steep price. With more comprehensive traceability you can drastically cut down on how long a recall takes, the costs incurred on your balance sheet and damage to your reputation.
By using AI to capture key data elements, more information is immediately at your fingertips. By knowing where a recalled product came from and where it is now, less time is needed to take corrective action. With ReposiTrak’s advanced system, what used to take months now takes minutes.
The speed with which the problem can be identified and solved offers welcome protection to retailers, distribution centers, farmers and every other corner of the industry. It even protects consumers and the environment.
Sustainability and Savings
Along with capturing KDEs from farm to table, ReposiTrak pulls expiration and sell-by dates. Armed with this data, companies are equipped to reduce waste.
In the event of a recall, knowing exactly which items are contaminated, down to the lot code, means only items directly affected can be discarded. The benefits also extend beyond recalls.
Greater awareness of when products are set to expire allows companies to prevent products from going to waste, reducing shrink. This visibility helps inform future orders and facilitates donations to food banks and composting efforts: a sustainability win appreciated by consumers and partners.
Streamlined Supply Chain Management
The present-day standard of “one up, one back” traceability is lacking. If a customer gets sick from a contaminated product the blame may unjustly fall on the retailer. By tracking more key categories from one end of the supply chain to the other, every link along the way is forced to be more accountable. This will reflexively lead to improvements that reverberate in all directions.
ReposiTrak has spent decades building the world’s largest network of suppliers, retailers and wholesalers. With a massive, shared record of goods received, you’ll be able to assess where the contamination occurred, who is responsible, and how we can all work together to prevent similar situations in the future—all far faster than ever before.
Take the Lead Through Traceability
FSMA 204 is not a set of rules to follow or projects to complete, it’s an opportunity. It calls for change in the way we work, but change is good. Especially when it’s easy to make and brings so many benefits. FDA traceability is good for consumers, it’s good for the companies you work with, it’s good for the industry and it’s good for the environment.
The question is not if traceability will be a bigger part of your business. It’s ‘how big?’ We’re entering new territory and every company needs to know more than ever which partners they can depend on. The consumers who rely on the products we ship and store to feed their families need to know where their food comes from. We’re all held to an increasingly higher standard.
Take this opportunity to set that standard and position your company as a leader in this new era that promises to be exciting and, most importantly, safe.
*Cheeses other than hard cheeses, shell eggs, nut butter, cucumbers (fresh), herbs (fresh), leafy greens (fresh) including fresh-cut leafy greens, melons (fresh), peppers (fresh), sprouts (fresh), tomatoes (fresh), tropical tree fruits (fresh), fruits and vegetables (fresh-cut), finfish including smoked finfish, crustaceans, mollusks and bivalves, ready-to-eat deli salads