Food safety: those who want to win will need to invest

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The headlines just keep ­coming:

“ConAgra Agrees to Pay $11.2 Million in Salmonella Outbreak”

“Two People Die After Eating Raw-Milk Cheese Made in New York State”

“Brazil’s Largest Food Companies Raided in Tainted Meat Scandal”

“3,300 Children Hospitalized After Food Poisoning”

And those are just in the last few weeks.

Concurrent with the ongoing deployment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and others in the global food supply chain are having to address food safety issues on a weekly, if not daily, basis. And the resources that are required to tackle compliance for FSMA and other requirements like gluten-free and non-GMO certification are expected to grow in the foreseeable future.

MMR OpinionThe primary reason we are facing these challenges is simple: The velocity of the sales cycle continues to increase. Whether you’re Amazon or the neighborhood market, consumers are demanding more and fresher products faster. As the velocity increases, the supply chain is stretched, occasionally to a breaking point, and that is when the problems start to happen. Bacteria sneak into the processing machines, ingredients that should not touch each other are mixed, and temperature variations occur during transport that shorten shelf life.

As the velocity continues to speed up and FSMA regulations are enforced, there is an even greater challenge to have the right compliance documentation available when needed. After all, from both the government’s and consumers’ perspective, if it’s not documented it didn’t happen. Because documents going back two years must be accessible within 24 hours for the Food and Drug Administration investigators and consumers want compliance 24/7/365, automation is necessary.

The technology used to automate the compliance process is critical to limiting the potential for those negative headlines and reducing the possibility of senior executives losing their freedom. Equally important is cultivating a strong food safety culture that starts from the C-level and flows purposefully throughout the organization. People and technology, technology and people — both are needed to drive company goals of compliance and ­transparency.

Given the investment needed to enable both your people and your technology to meet the goals, companies need to consider implementing a platform not only to manage your food safety compliance requirements but also to help your people do their other jobs better. You’ll need a system that helps with product discovery, track and trace, curation, customer behavior, and more. Using the same platform not only helps to ensure that all decisions are based on the latest and most complete data, but also leverages your investment to take advantage of the opportunities created by the collection and analysis of that data.

As Walmart’s vice president of food safety, Frank Yiannas, recently told Global Food Safety Resource, “You either choose to have a strong food safety culture, or you choose not to have one.”

Those who choose to have a strong food safety culture and successfully deploy an automated solution are facing a future with a lot less risk and the potential for significant growth. Those who choose not to have a strong food safety culture and are not leveraging today’s technology to take advantage of new opportunities are facing a future with a lot of added risk and potential defeat at the hands of more aggressive competitors.

Randy Fields is chairman and chief executive officer of Park City Group, a cloud-based software company that uses big data management to help retailers and their suppliers sell more, stock less and see everything. Fields is a cofounder of ReposiTrak, a cloud-based solution that enables all participants in the farm-to-table supply chain to easily manage records and regulatory compliance. Fields can be reached at randy@parkcitygroup.com.


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