Post-outbreak food safety rules validate need for supply chain traceability

by Michael Bourguignon, OPTEL Group, March 2019

 

Coli outbreaks over the past year sent dozens of North Americans to hospital and resulted in half a dozen deaths. It also shook consumer confidence in the safety of romaine lettuce and other recalled produce.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency estimates 1 in 8 people (4 million Canadians) get sick each year from contaminated food. Of those, more than 11,500 are hospitalized and 240 die.[1]

In January 2019, the government implemented the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) with the goal of making the food system safer “by focusing on prevention and allowing for faster removal of unsafe food from the marketplace.”[2]

The cornerstone of the SFCR is that it requires suppliers, importers and exporters to trace food one step forward to the immediate customer and one step back to the immediate supplier.

Wholesalers or distributors that sell food directly to consumers―retail stores and food-service establishments such as restaurants and cafés―do not need to track one step forward to the customer but must trace one step back to the immediate supplier.

There are other exceptions: Wholesalers that do not trade across provincial or territorial borders do not need to meet traceability requirements; however, importers do, regardless of whether the food products they import are traded across borders.

According to the new regulations, traceability data must identify the common name of the food, the name and address of whoever manufactured, prepared, produced, stored, packaged or labeled the food, and a lot code or other unique identifier.

Clear and readable data must be maintained for two years, be accessible in Canada, and be provided to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency upon request.

The new regulations substantiate the crucial role of traceability as a means of securing the food supply chain, but why stop at one step forward and back when the technology exists to take a giant leap forward to the end consumer and an even bigger leap back to the very source of the food items we consume?

Digital end-to-end supply chain traceability leverages innovative technologies to connect all the players along the supply chain, from the farmer right up to the consumer and everyone in between.

 

Read more: Food safety and brand trust solutions »»

In the case of the romaine lettuce recalls, such a system could have quickly pinpointed the source of the contamination, negating the need for a mass recall of unaffected produce. Rather than pulling all romaine lettuce off the shelves, retailers would have had to remove only those products identified as being tainted.

Because it allows single items to be tracked and traced through serialization at every step along the supply chain, digital end-to-end traceability can not only improve recall management but can also mitigate a cornucopia of other issued affecting the food and beverage supply chain.

The ability to guarantee the authenticity of products, minimize diversion, counterfeiting and fraud, verify sustainable business practices and provide customer-engagement tools to boost brand loyalty are just a few of the added benefits traceability offers.

So, while measures like the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations are certainly a step in the right direction toward a safer, more secure food and beverage supply chain, digital end-to-end traceability is the major leap required to complete the journey.

OPTEL is the only company with the ability to offer true end-to-end traceability, providing granular data at every step of the supply chain—from raw materials to the consumer and beyond.

OPTEL’s solutions allow diverse industries, including food and beverage, to benefit from actionable, real-time data to ensure the quality, integrity and authenticity of consumer products, help stop counterfeiting and reduce waste.

 

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/food-nutrition/infographic-food-related-illnesses-hospitalizations-deaths-in-canada.html

[2] http://inspection.gc.ca/food/eng/1299092387033/1299093490225

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