Untangling the Food Safety Modernization Act

Well, after what seems like a hundred years of campaigning, election day has finally arrived.  Thank heavens!  That can only mean that the 2016 campaign begins tomorrow.

But, until then, the results of today’s election could impact the rollout and implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act – the landmark legislation signed by President Obama in January of 2011.  There’s been a lot of speculation about how Obama or Romney will handle this after the election but I personally think it’s an important piece of legislation.  Today alone I spoke with two different journalists about this topic.  (You can listen to my conversation with The AME Food Testing Show on BlogTalkRadio here.)

Talking the FSMA and Other Topics on BlogTalkRadio

FSMA is a complicated law that addresses the complicated issue of domestic and international food safety.  United Fresh, among others, have done a lot to help explain it to their members.  If you’re a member of United Fresh, you can get a copy of their analysis here and United Fresh is also hosting a webinar on the topic on November 18.

I recently came across another overview of the legislation that was published in Food Logistics Magazine and the authors of the piece, Leavitt Partners and Eurofins, were kind enough to give me permission to post it on our website.  It’s a nice, easy-to-digest summary of key points in the law.  Worth the read and my thanks to the authors for letting us share it.  You can download a copy here.

Read the Leavitt Partners-Eurofins Article

Food safety and quality is something that we should all be invested in.  I’m optimistic that, with the election behind us, we’ll be able to focus time and resources on this important topic.

 

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

 

Your Shipment Has Been Delayed

The tragic effects of Superstorm Sandy will be with many people for a long time.  I’m fortunate that all of my friends on the east coast are ok, although many remain without power. There are so many difficult issues relating to this storm and the cold supply chain is one that may slip under the radar of most people…but not under the radar of supply chain professionals.

Andrea Charles of Pharma-IQ (part of IQPC) recently wrote an article that asked about supply chains being ready for natural disasters.  She raises the impact of tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes (not to mention blizzards, power outages, or other issues) on the pharmaceutical cold chain. She also speaks to the need to ensure that important medications are available to those affected by a disaster. I won’t debate here about whether climate change is real or not because, whether it is or isn’t, if you’re shipping high value, temperature-sensitive pharmaceutical or food items and your shipment is delayed due to an unpredictable storm or disaster, you’re at risk.

Now What Do You Do?

Andrea quotes Dave Alberts, Director at Crimson & Co. who says: Unfortunately, there is no way in which to fully prepare for such natural disasters as they are unexpected. However, the frequency at which these occur validate that contingency plans must be put in place wherever possible and organizations must attempt to protect product supply through efficient, planned out strategies and best practices. Research into the affects is a good start and companies participating in this are clearly at the forefront of successful and adaptive supply chains.”

Alberts talks about the need for adaptive supply chains.  I agree.  But what makes a supply chain adaptable is intelligence – knowing the condition of your product on-demand as it travels from the manufacturer to its destination.  If your product is stuck at an airport due to cancelled or delayed flights or if a ship can’t dock or a truck can’t get through, you need to know if its temperature is still in range so that you can rechill or reroute as necessary.  You want to be able to do this autonomously and without searching out and opening individual packages.  With so much unpredictability, you can’t account for every conceivable variable but you can build in the ability to proactively manage your supply chain so you can respond in a timely manner when a disaster strikes and help minimize losses.  Wireless temperature monitors that provide actionable data on-demand can help.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

PMA: How Do I Know My Produce is Delivered Fresh?

At the annual Produce Marketing Association convention here in Anaheim, there are acres of fresh produce companies and many of them are coming by the Intelleflex booth (#3185) asking how they can be sure that their produce is delivered fresh and has been properly handled throughout the cold chain.  Fortunately, Intelleflex’ Harry Kuo has the answer.

Harry answers the question: How can I improve Delivered Freshness?

Pallet-level temperature monitoring does the trick, enabling improved routing using FEFO inventory, reducing shrink and providing a complete traceability record as well.  Growers, packers, shippers and retailers can all benefit from pallet-level temperature monitoring.  If you’re at PMA, come by the Intelleflex booth and ask us to show you how it works and how you can improve your cold chain operations.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Hot News: Food Safety and Delivery Trucks

It was in many ways a hot week for news relating to food safety and food waste.  Part of this was fueled by the ongoing tragedy about cantaloupes and salmonella…this following on previous cantaloupe issues with listeria.  Then there was a recall for packaged salad mix relating to potential listeria issues.  I think America is waking up to the complexity of the cold chain and the challenges we face ensuring food safety and quality.

If we aren’t awake yet, then we should all watch this new video from NBC’s Today Show on Thursday, August 23.  This report from NBC’s Jeff Rossen is a follow up from a previous report earlier this year about how food shipped in supposedly properly refrigerated trucks in fact is being heated to temperatures of – in one case – 101°F!  This creates an environment for listeria, salmonella and e Coli to thrive.  The video shows all too graphically juice from thawed chicken parts dripping out of cartons and onto cabbage.  We used to hear about these things and swear that we would become vegetarians but, heck, as shown in the video, everything’s contaminated.

NBC Today Show image shows thawed chicken juice that leaked in a trailer whose refrigeration system wasn’t working.

What can be done about it?  Well, part of the problem is that it is nearly impossible to enforce proper temperature management in transit.  This is due in part to the police not having general authority to pull over trucks and arrest people for improper refrigeration and, even if they did, how would they check the massive numbers of reefers that traverse our highways every day?

Fortunately, temperature monitoring can help, but just having a single monitor in a trailer probably isn’t adequate as loads are moved around, pallets are reorganized and things can sit on loading docks.  Pallet-level temperature monitors, either built directly into the pallets or placed in with the product itself, can provide a temperature record from harvest to retailer or food service provider to document freshness and proper handling.  Monitoring pallets in this way would make it easy to identify when pallets haven’t been properly cooled in transit and perhaps help to reduce or eliminate health risks associated with improper handling.

And, fortunately, we’re seeing visionary retail grocers and restaurants starting to implement these tactics to ensure that they’re not selling tainted produce, meats and dairy items so there’s hope.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Food Safety Audits – Impacts on Traceability

Lara Sowinski of Food Logistics magazine wrote a great article on Food Safety Audits that’s well worth the read.  In the article, she discusses how the impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), increasing imports, growing recalls and supply chain complexity are pressuring the industry to maintain and improve food safety.

Food safety audits will impact traceability requirements – RFID can help

The article quotes Melanie J. Neuman, an advisory manager who specializes in food safety issues for PricewaterhouseCooper’s retail and consumer practice who says that, when it comes to the impact of the FSMA, “companies are facing the most sweeping changes in food regulations in over 70 years.”

Neuman explains that the role of PwC is to advise its clients on best practices to meet and comply with regulations, not only for the FSMA, but for a host of food safety laws and regulations that are governed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We really help clients integrate food safety into their culture and their daily operations,” says Neuman.  This is the first stage, she explains in the interview, but then they drill deeper with their clients.  Neuman continues that “The next step of the assessment starts to drill deeper into other categories, such as whether or not the company’s electronic traceability systems are robust enough to comply with the current regulations and their customers’ expectations for producing reports. We look at the company’s ability to track and trace products accurately and quickly, including the ability to identify all ingredients, including raw materials, all production and inventory records, and all distribution on an outbound basis, in order to quickly track product in the event of a food borne illness or other food safety risk.”

Neuman states that tracking and tracing capabilities are high on the list of items that an auditor will examine during an inspection and adds that “record keeping practices go hand in hand with tracking and tracing.”

RFID and intelligent pallets and returnable transport items can help deal with the complexities of the modern supply chain.  With all of the hand offs and issues associated with increasingly diverse and extensive supply chains, making it easier to capture, store and share electronic traceability information every step of the way will be critical.  To learn how, click here.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

Chinese Food and Free Traceability

I love Chinese food but this post isn’t about Cashew Chicken or Chow Mein.  An article in Western Farm Press (and reposted by Food Logistics Magazine) mentions that China is now the 4th largest importer of fresh vegetables into the USA.  Not surprising really. Half of the fresh fruit and one-fourth of the vegetables consumed in the U.S. are imported. It’s not just produce either as 86% of the many types of fish we eat comes from other countries. What does this mean for food safety?

The story in Western Farm Press references Dr. Juan Anciso, a Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist and food safety expert, who says “Assuring safe food supplies is increasingly important for fresh fruits and vegetables as state and federal governments eye legislation to regulate safety issues, both domestically and internationally, because of past outbreaks.”

Reduce Waste. Improve Quality. Get Traceability.

Dr. Luis Ribera, an agricultural economist at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, suggests that an inexpensive labor force and good growing conditions in China and other countries can lead to increased risk of contaminated food.  He was recently in China to discuss the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law last year by President Obama. “What this law basically says about imported fresh produce is that the importer/broker who imports fresh produce from overseas into the U.S. is now liable for that produce once it’s in the U.S.,” according to Ribera.

The new FSMA law sets food safety standards on production, harvesting, handling and packaging on all produce, including imports, Ribera said. Until now, such standards had just been guidelines. Ribera is working on a project that to measure the impact of FSMA on fruit and vegetable production in the USA, as well as any impact on produce imports.  He concludes that he suspects the new rules – many of which are still in development by the government –  will likely increase the cost of production for fruits and vegetables, both domestically and overseas.

He could be right, but it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, you can essentially get traceability solutions for free.  How?

A significant portion of produce goes to waste each year (Forbes says it is $35 billion.  A GS1 article says IBM estimates it closer to $458 billion.)  This waste is due to spoilage, as much of half of which can be attributed to improper temperature management across the supply chain – a challenge made worse by the longer trips associated with importing food from Asia or other parts of the world that can increase the risk of spoilage or food safety problems.  By implementing pallet-level temperature monitoring and management solutions you can significantly reduce the amount of food wasted in the supply chain and generate more revenue…more than enough to rapidly recover the investment in the solutions.  One case study we published showed that the customer was able to pay for the solution in a single growing season.  The beauty of it is that, along with reducing waste and shrink, the solution also automatically provides you with  traceability data.  It doesn’t cost extra…it’s part of the solution’s benefits.

You can learn more about how this works by clicking here or you can email me.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

 

 

What is That You’re Eating?

I’ve written previously about how RFID can be used to improve track and trace capabilities for improving food safety and dealing with recalls.  However, here’s another angle associated with food that you may not have thought about: authenticity.

How can you be sure where this came from?

So, you’re paying for wild salmon at your favorite grocery store.  Are you sure?  How about those free range chicken breasts?

That exotic white tuna sushi you’re eating?  Maybe it’s Escolar, at least according to a story published last year in the Boston Globe.

For some, ensuring that the food you’re buying is what it claims to be is merely economic…why pay more for something special when it’s not special?  But, for others, this can have for more serious health or religious impacts.

Steven Kronenberg, an attorney with expertise in food safety, recently blogged about three companies facing litigation because they allegedly misrepresented that their foods were Kosher/Halal certified.  Kronenberg writes:

Food companies face huge risks from this litigation due to the enormous size of the potential plaintiffs’ classes.  In the U.S., Halal-certified foods are a $20 billion market.  Kosher consumers buy $12.5 billion in food annually, and the broader market for Kosher ingredients exceeds $300 billion.  (Many non-Kosher consumers choose to buy Kosher foods due to their perceived higher quality, and Kosher is the “hottest word on food labels.”)  To manage some of these risks in the CPG market, some researchers are exploring the use of RFID technology to trace Halal-certified foods throughout the supply chain.  Food companies in related market segments should consider developing plans to manage their risks of this emerging and costly litigation. 

Mr. Kronenberg has also blogged about food fraud and litigation risks.

As the world’s food chain becomes increasingly complex, intelligent RFID tags can help. They can be used to capture and store information about a product’s origins and travels through the supply chain, helping to document where the food came from and its authenticity – as well as helping to document that it has been properly stored and handled along the way.  You can learn more about some of these benefits here.
Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing