There should be no question that the need for whole-chain traceability is real.
Growers are facing rising operational costs. Consumer food safety has become a highly visible public health concern. Government and industry mandates are a reality.
A true whole-chain traceability system effectively addresses these issues by providing transparent and reliable information from harvest through distribution to the store or restaurant.
Clearly, the pressure to improve operational efficiency and product safety is intense, yet industrywide traceability efforts seems to be moving forward at a snail’s pace.
So, what factors will accelerate industrywide implementation of this vital business and public health improvement? There are three main drivers that will ultimately serve as powerful catalysts for implementation going forward:
More effective recall management: Product recalls seem to be almost a weekly occurrence. Cable television and online news reports spread outbreak fears more quickly than ever before. Over the past several years broad spinach and tomato recalls, for example, were devastating. Experts estimate the total hard industry costs associated with these events to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Companies throughout the supply chain - from growers to retailers - now clearly understand that a major recall can be catastrophic. The damage includes public health consequences, massive monetary expense and long-term damage to your brand.
Case-level traceability is the most viable solution for limiting the size and scope of recalls. Industrywide implementation will allow contaminated product to be accurately identified - by location and source.
The scope of recall can be focused, and the volume of product withdrawn reduced. This benefits the entire industry. Recalls can be managed quickly and with precision. If a specific operation is not involved, then their product is not at risk of being pulled.
Brand protection: A foodborne illness outbreak and the resulting recall can cause irreparable damage to a company’s brand. This applies to both growers and distributors, but can be most damaging to retailers and foodservice operations as these businesses are on the front line for consumers.
Customers have traditionally trusted retailers and restaurants to protect their health interests. Continued contaminations incidents are eroding this trust and harming individual brands.
Whole-chain traceability allows companies to protect their valuable reputation by providing the real-time information needed to quickly identify and contain incidents before they can negatively impact brand value.