Tracing Tastes & FSMA Updates

September 29, 2022

Tracing Tastes & FSMA Updates

How to Continue Maintaining Food & Beverage Compliance

By Kelly Smith

Regulatory scrutiny has become more important than ever in recent years, spurned on from the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which requires compliance as well as food safety plan evaluations. In addition to concerns regarding regulatory safety, industries have been dealing with additional supply chain pressures and workforce shortages.

Additionally, consumer demands for safety has only risen in recent years—and transparency is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an absolute must. The Food Industry Association and NielsenIQ’s Transparency in an Evolving Omnichannel World Report reveals that 64% of consumers say they would switch from a brand they usually buy to another brand that provides more in-depth product information, beyond just basic nutrition facts.

The U.S. government is working to maintain up-to-date regulations on food safety. The FDA updated its Food Traceability List (FTL) in January 2021, and in December 2021 it released a plan to improve its ability to identify the sources and causes of foodborne illness outbreaks. The Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan was informed by an independent review of the FDA’s capacity to support or lead multistate outbreak investigations.

With increased government oversight and continuing consumer pressure, organizations are re-diverting their focus to ensure stricter approaches to compliance and are seeking more effective ways to protect their supply chain. In this blog post, we will review recent FSMA guideline updates, uncover industry trends, and share the best ways to maintain food and beverage safety compliance.

More than 60% of people

have increased their focus on food safety following the COVID-19 pandemic.

New FSMA Updates and Guidelines 

Companies looking to maintain compliance should review the new proposed rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act so they can begin conducting key processes—like assigning internal owners, mapping product life cycles, and evaluating current capabilities. The introduction of Section 204 will establish additional record-keeping requirements, building upon those already in the FSMA. Section 204 requires companies to capture data and store it properly for two years, so if a recall occurs, manufacturers can provide the FDA with their data via a spreadsheet format within 24 hours. Food and beverage organizations in the industry have until January 2025 to become compliant with Section 204.

These guidelines will apply to certain foods such as dairy, seafood, ready-to-eat products, and specific ingredients, as well as those who process, pack, or hold foods on the food traceability list. With ever-changing requirements, it’s crucial for companies and manufacturers to stay up to date with FSMA guidelines and industry trends as a way to successfully navigate food and beverage compliance.

Current Trends: Transparency & Traceability Leading the Way

Food safety trends are usually influenced by consumer demands, environmental impact, and the economy. In the current landscape, trends are revolving around process automation, healthier options, increased sustainability, and a greater focus on food safety overall.

Consumers are demanding more transparency than ever when it comes to the foods they eat, and more than 60% of people have increased their focus on food safety following the COVID-19 pandemic. The traceability of the food product is important here, as transparency can be assured by knowing the status of the item at every step. And with the right kind of track and trace platform in place—like Ashton Potter’s ProLinc® solution—product integrity, quality, and compliance can be upheld for every single component, product, and batch in circulation.

FSMA compliance is expected to be high on the FDA’s priority list going into 2023, particularly when it comes to the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) rule and the food safety plans of the PC Rule. In fact, during the third quarter of 2022, the FDA issued approximately 1,200 import refusals and detained regulated products, due to not complying with FSVP requirements.

The introduction of Section 204 builds on the Food Safety Modernization Act and outlines the overall approach FDA will take over the next decade. These actions include tech-enabled traceability, smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response, and new business models and retail modernization to help create a better food safety culture. With an increased need to have supply chain visibility in place to ensure food safety, technology is becoming a crucial answer in addressing issues faced by the industry.

How to Maintain Food & Beverage Compliance

With the FDA’s concern with continuing outbreaks of foodborne illness, utilizing the right technology (like ProLinc®) for tracking critical events throughout the supply chain is necessary in the current food and beverage landscape due to increased government guidelines. Being able to map product lifecycles with technology will help enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations.

The following are key actions that organizations should take to further enhance compliance in their food and beverage operations:

  • Develop specific & detailed procedures. Changes to any supply chain can potentially increase the risk of fraud in raw materials, ingredients, finished products, and packaging. To help mitigate fraud, manufacturers should develop specific and detailed procedures for obtaining emergency suppliers to create a crisis management plan for navigating issues that could arise. When ingredients and supplies become scarce or tampered with, companies are often left scrambling for new suppliers, and in the process may encounter compromised food safety situations.
  • Update operations processes. It’s important to regularly evaluate current company operations to not only identify any issues but also find ways to develop and update procedures. The food and beverage industry is frequently changing and adapting to adhere to government regulations so companies need must do so as well, by analyzing their supply chain and optimizing processes.
  • Keep up with new preferences. As the food and beverage landscape continues to change, companies will need to perform regular research to stay up to date on new guidelines, trends, and consumer demands.
  • Digitize food safety. Updating food safety tasks from manual practices to automated and digitized processes is a necessary step to ensure compliance. With tasks and procedures loaded into software that is designed to track and trace, companies can approach food safety more efficiently.
  • Implement the right technology. Most auditing standards and FDA requirements now require companies to have food fraud programs and risk assessments. Proven technologies, like ProLinc®, should be utilized for overall enhanced product traceability and food safety management.
  • Leverage data and analytics. As traceability is a must, organizations should use data to gain crucial insights into their products. A solution like ProLinc® offers a highly-detailed digital genealogy down to the individual component, and is able to oversee and glean insights from every product in circulation.
  • Identify potential product compromises. In the event that approved parameters are not met during manufacturing, compromises must be identified in real time to enable proactive recall prevention. Through a forensic traceability solution with built-in advanced data capabilities and reporting, like ProLinc®, companies can easily maintain compliance requirements and instantly gather any data needed to respond to government inquiries and requests.

Utilize the Right Technology & Partner

Over the years, technology has played a leading role in the evolution of the food and beverage industry. As the food supply chain continues to become more complex, companies must adopt solutions that are capable of upholding rigorous standards for food quality and safety, beginning in the field and extending all the way to store shelves.

Ashton Potter is able to provide that solution, as we pair security labels with ProLinc® forensic traceability technology to secure every ingredient, food item, and batch against contamination, and offers comprehensive food traceability throughout the entire supply chain. As today’s manufacturers require billions of products to be tracked simultaneously, often across multiple facilities, ProLinc® offers advanced track and trace insights, available via a single scan, and can scale to the billions, offering global product security and traceability to organizations of all sizes.

Speak with an expert today to learn more about current FSMA guidelines and how technology like ProLinc® can help organizations maintain food and beverage compliance.