The Critical Role of Traceability in the Food Supply Chain

Jan 2017

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration says, "About 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is a significant public health burden that is largely preventable."

Our global economy affords many benefits, like access to an affordable and exhaustive variety of foods. But with these advances come an increase in food contamination risks.

Unless you're living off the grid, you've heard about the far-reaching Chipotle E. coli outbreaks of 2015, from which the company's reputation and stock are still suffering.

Though tough to prevent, such events are possible to contain. In the moments after an initial outbreak is reported, organizations need to respond swiftly with a rock-solid assurance of where they’ve sourced their food products. In many cases, speedy and knowledgeable reactions have made the difference between a wide-scale outbreak and a minimally-contained event.

Food Safety Magazine breaks emergency planning into 4 stages: preparedness, response, recovery, and prevention. Traceability plays a critical role in each stage. Ultimately, improved visibility within the food supply chain paired with agility and transparency in the wake of an outbreak is key. In all 4 stages, traceability contains the problem by:

  • empowering authorities to understand the scope and react accordingly
  • preventing additional illness and suffering
  • and teaching valuable lessons that prevent future outbreaks

As recently as last month, National Steak and Poultry had an expanded recall of 992 tons of ready to eat chicken products. The agility required to react to such a staggering recall requires a high level of organization. Would you be equipped to respond?

Improving Food Traceability

Due to regulations imposed by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), traceability is no longer a question of option or preference. That said, many organizations have moved beyond the basics to acquire an impressive degree of precision in their food tracking efforts.

We work with a bun supplier for McDonald's that has firsthand experience with this level of expertise.

McDonald's has stringent guidelines that require a high level of compliance, organization, and autonomy from their suppliers. This supplier has maintained the required standards of quality required with the help of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.

How ERP Software Supports Food Traceability

Bottom line, organizations need the right tools to maximize efficiency. Good ERP software helps you:

  • streamline end-to-end processes
  • gather real-time business insight through reporting
  • manage your business anywhere, 24/7, and on any device

Beyond these essentials, you need assurance that your data is safe. Software that provides full-scale data management via secure data centers with expert monitoring frees you up to focus on your business.

In Closing

Not only is food traceability required to preserve the public good and an organization's reputation, it's essential to companies striving to maintain a competitive edge. With the real food movement, more people want and demand to know where companies source their food. There's no going back on this desire, and for good reason. The businesses that win customer mindshare and loyalty in the future will be those that can meet this growing demand.

Interested in learning more about ERP software that can improve food traceability? Check out SAP's Business ByDesign.