In spite of increased regulations, food traceability continues to be a major issue for many manufacturers and distributors. When organizations are able to track and trace products, they regularly see improvements in their inventory management, which leads to less waste and lower overhead costs. Concepts as straightforward as accurate labeling and product identification are major influences on both the quality of products and consumer satisfaction.
Seafood Product Traceability a Major Concern
Just recently, an Oceana study uncovered much of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is mislabeled. The research conducted in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area looked at shrimp samples taken from 15 restaurants and found roughly half of all samples weren't accurately identified on the menus. Meanwhile, a separate study of the East Coast seafood supply chain found 43 out of 143 shrimp sampled from eateries and grocery stores were misidentified as well.
Consumers are the primary victims in this circumstance, as seafood distributors either knowingly label certain kinds of lower-quality food as something that's more expensive or do so in ignorance. For instance, Oceana reported the most common error was labeling a farmed variety of shrimp as a wild or Gulf shrimp, which are perceived as being of a higher quality. Another somewhat troubling insight raised by the report was that three types of shrimp under scrutiny didn't have any genetic match to other varieties in the study. In addition, one species usually sold as a pet was found in food items.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued regulations for grocery stores to provide country-of-origin labeling, which roughly half of D.C.-area institutions were missing. On the other hand, restaurants aren't under the USDA mandate to label product origins. However, the big issue involves the entire seafood supply chain. Distributors often run their own tests on food products to see if the DNA profiles match scientifically accepted standards. It's the responsibility of the distributors and manufacturers to ensure it's sourcing seafood in a transparent matter before it even reaches restaurant galleys or grocery store shelves.
Supply Chain Management Improves with Stronger Traceability
Packaging Digest explained that track-and-trace policies are gaining traction in the seafood industry. A number of large companies, including Trident Seafoods and Bumble Bee Foods, have made significant adjustments to improve data capture methods to gain greater visibility into their supply chains, but the change is not happening across the board
Additionally, Caito Foods has put forward significant effort and energy to improve traceability standards in its facilities. With roughly 50 years of experience, the organization operates four distribution centers across multiple regions in the U.S. Much like seafood, the produce that Caito delivers to grocers must not only be safe and high quality, but also sold to the public within a limited time frame. At the same time, recent federal regulations have grocery retailers display country-of-origin information on the store floor. In the near future, these businesses will have to track products using a Global Track Item Number, also known as at GTIN code.
Using manual, paper-based processes to audit and track product data is not sustainable for food distributors. First, it's not accurate and exposes the distributor to risks associated with food recalls. It's very difficult to identify the specific point of contamination if it were to occur, meaning more product would be lost than is necessary. Second, there's a sever time lag with paper-based tracking. Regulatory agencies demand a quick turnaround for traceability requests.
As a result, Caito decided to integrate RFgen Mobile Foundations for Oracle's JD Edwards with License Plating, as well as the RFgen-Vocollect Voice Solution. Not only was Caito Foods able to create a more seamless and efficient workflow for traceability, but it improved accuracy. With voice picking technology, the distributor increased productivity by 35 percent and reduced errors by 25 percent. At the same time, the license plating solution helped Caito Foods develop standardized transactions across all distribution centers, which helped to ensure every pallet was correctly labeled as soon as possible.
Food traceability will only continue to become more stringent. Food distributors play a key role in helping create a more transparent, efficient and healthier supply chain. However, they need the right tools to make it happen.