US Ambassador Visits Intelleflex at Fruit Logistica

It was a special day at the Intelleflex stand at Fruit Logistica as Philip Murphy, the US Ambassador to Germany came by to greet the team.

Kevin Payne, US Ambassador Philip Murphy, Erik Cotman and Stephen Dunphy

Kevin Payne, US Ambassador Philip Murphy, Erik Cotman and Stephen Dunphy

The Ambassador was touring the US Pavilion at the show. Tens of thousands of people are at the show which concludes on Friday.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

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Fruit Logistica Impresses

Fruit Logistica, the largest fruit and produce show in the world, is underway in Berlin and it doesn’t disappoint.  Spanning some 19 halls and hosting tens of thousands of visitors, it’s almost a spectacle that compares to something like the Mobile World Congress, CeBit or Comdex in its prime except, instead of computers and cellphones, it’s acres of apples, lettuce, grapes, berries and every other conceivable type of fruit and vegetable.

If you're in Berlin, visit us in Hall 23 at stand A-03.

If you’re in Berlin, visit us in Hall 23 at stand A-03.

I’m amazed at the expanse of people that we met with yesterday from those local to Germany and as far away as Vietnam, Australia and Peru.  Many of them were interested in new approaches to improving quality and delivered freshness using wireless temperature monitoring which we explained in English, German, Dutch, Gaelic, French and bits and pieces of other languages.

It’s quite an experience.  If you’re in the neighborhood, visit us in Hall 23 – The USA Pavilion – stand A-03.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

 

Recalls, Grocers, FSMA and the Guilty Parties

Earlier this week, several publications including The USA Today and The Wall Street Journal reported on findings from the Centers for Disease Control relating to food safety which detailed that leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and kale accounted are the guiltiest parties a caused the most food-borne illnesses nationwide from 1998 through 2008. Dairy products accounted for the most hospitalizations. The most deaths were linked to poultry. The study looked at 4,887 outbreaks that caused 128,269 illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths when the food that caused them was known or suspected.

Sure, shopping for lettuce can be fun, but is it safe?

Sure, shopping for lettuce can be fun,
but is it safe?

According to Patricia Griffin a food-borne disease expert at the CDC who was the senior author of the report the “The study isn’t meant to be a “risk of illness per serving” list for consumers. The statistics are meant to help regulators and the food industry target efforts to improve the safety of food.” She adds that “The vast majority of meals are safe, so don’t let the numbers for leafy greens keep you from eating vegetables.”

What does this have to do with retail grocers and the pending Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations?

Well, most of us purchase these products at our favorite grocery store. Simply put, we trust that our local grocer has taken good care to ensure that the food he or she is selling to us has been properly washed, dried, packaged, handled and stored and that it is safe to eat and of good quality. We, as consumers, have no way of ensuring this ourselves. This trust relationship is critical.  It’s why we chose a grocery store.

But retail grocers, according to Deloitte, executed an average of 117 recalls PER YEAR!

In addition to complying with the 2005 Bioterrorism Act which relates to recalls, grocers need to understand the potential impacts of the FSMA as well. On January 24, I blogged about a white paper from Food Safety expert Dr. John Ryan about what grocers should be doing today with regards to the FSMA.  You can find his article here.  I subsequently came across this excellent, brief Retail Impact of the FSMA summary by Leavitt Partners. It’s well worth the five minutes or less it takes to read.

I asked Jennifer McEntire, Senior Director, Food and Import Safety, how she would summarize what retailers should be thinking about the FSMA at this point.  She said, “From a practical standpoint, knowing who is in your supply chain, in this case, looking forward toward retail, and having confidence that they are following the rules is paramount.”As consumers, we want to maintain that trust relationship with our food providers. There are new tools and methodologies available to the industry to help further the cause of food safety and quality.  And, while the FSMA may not be primarily directed to retailers, as Jennifer points out, from a practical standpoint it’s essential for grocers to have complete confidence in their suppliers and confirm that they’re following the rules.As grocers are the captains of the cold chain, let’s encourage them to lead the way in addressing and implementing the rules.Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

Our First Ever Superbowl Commercial

Today Intelleflex is introducing our first ever Superbowl commercial.  The beauty of it is that we didn’t have to pay CBS almost $4 million to air it and the actual production costs were very low ($0).  All you have to do is click on this link sometime during Sunday’s game between our hometown San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens and, voila!, Superbowl commercial.  In about 30 seconds, you can learn what the new 49ers stadium (being constructed about a mile from our office here in Santa Clara) and Intelleflex XC3 Technology RFID tags and readers have in common.  (OK, you can watch it ahead of time too if you want.)

Watch Our First Ever Superbowl Commmercial!

Watch Our First Ever Superbowl Commercial!

Then you can sit back, relax and enjoy the game with friends, family and lots of snacks.  And, as a bonus, here’s some Superbowl related trivia.  The top two Superbowl snacks are:

  • Salsas and dips (with chips or fresh veggies of course)
  • Chicken wings

Be sure to practice good food safety and wash your celery and carrot sticks thoroughly and make sure those chicken wings are thoroughly cooked.  Hopefully all of the ingredients were properly managed and temperature monitored along the supply chain!

And, with deference and respect to our friends who are Ravens’ fans, from those of us in Santa Clara: GO NINERS!

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

Does the FSMA Have a Direct Impact on Retail Grocers?

Will the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have direct impact on the retail grocery industry? According to industry food safety expert Dr. John Ryan, the answer is an emphatic YES!  The FDA published the first two sets of proposed rules under the FSMA on January 4 of this year and the rules are available for public and industry review for 120 days.  At first glance, the two proposed rules would appear to focus on the grower and the supply chain, sparing the retail grocery industry the task of having to do anything.

FSMA Retail Ryan Thumbnail

But, in his new whitepaper, Dr. Ryan points out that there are three things that retail grocery executives should consider:

  1. Changes to one end of the food supply chain impacts the entire supply chain.
  2. The model the FDA will follow for subsequent rules has been established.
  3. Retailers have vicarious liability.

Because traceability and food safety are connected throughout the cold chain, what impacts one segment has implications for all of the other segments and vicarious liability represents a potentially huge risk for major brands. Dr. Ryan concludes his paper by making three recommendations that retailers should consider today:

  1. Be proactive.  Preventive planning is the name of the game.
  2. Consult with inspection agencies to determine how FSMA changes will impact retail inspection procedures.
  3. Consider there may be additional benefits, such as insurance reductions, that can result from addressing FSMA regulations.

FSMA is sure to be a complicated beast and, while it may take 1-3 years or more for it to be implemented in entirety, there are actions that retailers should take now.  You can download Dr. Ryan’s white paper here.

I would also add that the one step forward, one step back traceability requirements are part of FSMA. This is not a simple task and many retailers may find that their current monitoring and paper traceability tools aren’t up to the task.  Getting a holistic view of your cold chain as it relates to all of these issues sooner rather than later can provide the ability to turn potential liabilities into potential opportunities and advantages.

You can learn more about what Intelleflex can offer retail grocers and food service providers by clicking here.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

FORBES: Interested in Food + Technology? Five Opportunities You Shouldn’t Miss

I devote a log of our blog ink to issues relating to food safety, quality and reducing the amount of food wasted. A recent article in Forbes talks about five areas where technology can make a difference including temperature monitoring to enable First Expired, First Out inventory to help ensure that more food is delivered fresh.  It’s nice when the business press starts to pick up on ideas that are too often stuck within the food industry.

We All Need to Get on the Bus to Improve Food Safety and Quality

We All Need to Get on the Bus to Improve Food Safety and Quality

For us to make improvements in the food cold chain, everyone’s going to have to get on the bus: producers, packers, shippers, retailers, consumers and government.  I’m hopeful that the attention currently being given to the FSMA in the mainstream media will translate into more attention about what we can collectively do to improve the cold chain.

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

The Need for Intelligent RTIs

Supply chain optimization has become a way of improving and differentiating your business. It’s no longer just a cost of doing business but a source of competitive advantage as demonstrated by companies like WalMart. Bar coding has been widely employed for this purpose but bar codes have limitations and can only help so much:

  • You have to be able to see the barcodes to read them.
  • Bar codes can’t store actionable data about the condition of the contents such as it’s temperature or transport history.

The critical benefits of actionable data about the condition and location of products are being increasingly recognized across the food and pharmaceutical industries, as well as for asset tracking. Actionable data enables the intelligent supply chain and delivers the ability to improve operational efficiencies and drive out waste. Research indicates that this data is best captured at the pallet, bin or tote level – the domain of the reusable transport item, or RTI.

An intelligent RTI, or iRTI, is a reusable transport item that is embedded with an RFID tag to collect and capture information about the RTI itself as well as its contents. When integrated into a software system, the iRTI provides important actionable data to help address some of the key challenges in today’s supply chains and provide a rapid ROI. And, by employing RFID, you don’t have to actually see the tag to read it and capture the information on the tag. This simplifies operations and can reduce labor costs.

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Download the Packaging Revolution iRTI White Paper

Rick LeBlanc, editor of Packaging Revolution’s authored this new white paper on the value of Intelligent RTIs.  It’s a great explanation of the benefits of this new solution.  You can download it here.

 

Kevin Payne
Senior Director of Marketing

How Much Does 2,000,000,000 Tons of Food Waste Cost Us?

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

Food Waste is Just Plain Ugly

2,000,000,000 is a big number and when applied to tons of food waste it’s a massive problem.  A new report, published by The Institute of Mechanical Engineers,  a U.K.-based engineering society and think tank, states that of the four billion tons of food produced annually worldwide up to half of it goes to waste. Among the causes:

  • Poor harvesting, storage and transportation methods
  • Plain old consumer waste (we buy too much and throw it out)
  • Overly conservative and misunderstood “sell-by” dates, driven mostly by grocers looking to avoid legal actions

I italicize the last part because part of the problem is that grocers don’t know the condition of their food when they receive it. They don’t know how the product’s condition at harvest, how it was handled, if it was shipped properly or if it has a week of shelf life or only a couple of days. Their answer: dump it and factor it into the cost of doing business.

But who pays for that?

(How many guesses do you need?)

Having metrics about the history and condition of perishable products when they are received by the retailer can help. But, as mentioned in this report, the problem starts far before the food ever gets to the retailer.  You have to start managing the product at harvest to ensure it is properly stored, processed and handled. Growers, packers, shippers and retailers need actionable data at every step along the supply chain to reduce or eliminate waste before product gets to the stores and ensuring better quality, fresher products for consumers.

Wasting less food has numerous benefits:

  • Costs are reduced (and revenues increase)
  • Quality can be improved
  • Less water, fuel and fertilizer is wasted
  • More people can be fed with the same amount of production

The tools exist to deal with the problem.  We just have to use them and consumers and retailers need to take the lead.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing – Intelleflex

 

FSMA Makes the Front Page

We’ve been waiting and wondering if the Food Safety Modernization Act was ever going to make it out of the gates.  Now, two years to the day after President Obama signed the FSMA into law, the FDA has announced the release of the proposed rules for the law.  Heck, it even made the front page of our local paper over the weekend!  Those of us in the industry have certainly been aware of the implications of the law but, by and large, the public hasn’t heard much about it. The fact that this is front page news is significant as increased public awareness will also put pressure in the industry to take action.

Front Page News for the FSMA

Front Page News for the FSMA

According to United Fresh, two proposed rules will be released:

The Preventive Controls for Human Food rule would require food companies—whether they manufacture, process, pack or store food—to put in place better controls to minimize and reduce the risk of contamination.

The Produce Safety rule would require farms that grow, harvest, pack or hold fruits and vegetables to follow standards that are aimed at preventing contamination.

FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg said that “The FDA knows that food safety, from farm to fork, requires partnership with industry, consumers, local, state and tribal governments, and our international trading partners. Our proposed rules reflect the input we have received from these stakeholders and we look forward to working with the public as they review the proposed rules.”

The FSMA should motivate the food industry to fundamentally rethink their cold chains.  It’s not a simple feat to move from a reactive methodology that’s been in place for decades to a proactive one but the benefits to consumers – and to the industry – can be immense. It’s important to note that Hamburg specifically mentioned “farm to fork” and “international trading partners”.

Also interesting is commentary (Fresh Plaza and elsewhere) that the expected cost to large farms is estimated by the FDA to be roughly $30,000, and the cost for small farms is expected to reach $13,000. But, when traceability is done in conjunction with temperature monitoring to reduce waste, enough savings can be found to more than pay for the cost of traceability. In effect, the additional revenues by being able to sell more of the produce cover the cost of implementing traceability and then some!

Much has changed in the industry over the years due to globalized and elongated cold chains.  I expect retailer grocers will take the lead on this and begin to mandate electronic temperature and traceability solutions for their suppliers starting in the field, whether that field is in California or Chile.

(You can learn how Intelleflex can help address FSMA requirements here.)

It’s a nice way to start what should be a very interesting – and busy – year.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing

More Benefits of the Cloud

ChainLink Research recently published an interesting article on cloud-based data models.  The article can be found here.

iStock_000021324105Small

The view of data is rapidly improving, thanks to advances in Cloud-based solutions.

ChainLink references the following benefits that can be achieved by using The Cloud:

  • Economics: The Cloud is a more economical model: support and maintenance costs are reduced for both the customer and the provider due to a simpler multi-tenant model where upgrades are more easily introduced into the system as they become available. Customers are also able to avoid the costly and disruptive “rip and replace” approach.
  • Collaboration: Businesses are increasingly interconnected and people across the supply chain want to share information more easily.  The Cloud makes sharing information, exchanging ideas and solving problems easier – especially across the supply chain.
  • Connectivity and Visibility: Businesses want access to information outside of the data center and outside of the office. Governments are requiring more transparent access to data to address regulatory requirements. Globalization and traceability requirements can be far easier to address in the Cloud. ChainLink  specifically mentions that “for products that require condition monitoring, tracking has gone from sometime to real-time.”  The Cloud facilitates faster, real-time information sharing.
  • Community: The article references that The Cloud enables an inter-enterprise community which is critical for today’s complex supply chains. ChainLink lists several benefits including more to trading-partner dialog than transactions, such as finding new suppliers, obtaining industry information, communicating with the community about changes in compliance and regulations.

These are key benefits that can help improve quality across supply chains, especially where temperature sensitive goods such as fresh, frozen and packaged foods and bio-pharmaceuticals are involved.  Thanks to solutions incorporating RFID temperature monitors, we’re now able to collect vast quantities of information. But the information is only of value when it’s actionable – that is, when it is easy to use.  Cloud-based solutions, such as ZEST Data Services provide the ability to improve supply chain efficiencies by simplifying and speeding access to the actionable data necessary for improved decision making and collaboration.

ChainLink concludes that The Cloud brings “Power to the User”.  I’d go a step further and say that it the entire supply chain wins when actionable, useful data is made more readily and rapidly available.

Kevin Payne

Senior Director of Marketing