A New Era of Food Traceability

The food supply chain is one of the oldest industries in the books. People have always needed to eat, after all. 

Times (and technology) have changed, though, since the days of small-scale farms and wagons filled with produce slowly rolling to the closest town. With that increased complexity and scale comes challenges, like lack of traceability as products move from place to place at warp speed, which can increase risk for foodborne illness outbreaks. 

But as the FDA says in its recently released New Era of Food Safety Blueprint

“Modern times require modern approaches.” 

And that commitment to not just modernity — but to the future — is exactly why Fusionware has joined the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety challenge.

First, some background on why this challenge is necessary: 

Food recalls account for a mountain of economic damage. The average cost of one recall to one responsible company is about $10 million — and that’s just direct costs (like notification to customers and regulatory bodies, destruction of contaminated product, and additional labor costs). That $10 million/year figure doesn’t even account for lost sales or the cost of overall brand damage.

When you see that there are typically hundreds of food recalls each year (that number has crept to a high of 1,403 recalls in 2000)… the math starts to make your head spin.

Traceability is a core component of not just stopping foodborne illness outbreaks when they happen, but also stopping foodborne illness before it becomes a full-blown outbreak. When the industry is better able to trace the food supply chain, we can: 

  • Determine where an outbreak has started 
  • Figure out how far that supply chain reached, and who is at risk of contamination 
  • Slow the spread of an outbreak that’s already started
  • Predict large-scale outbreaks before they happen, by using predictive modeling to see where and when risk for foodborne illness begins

So, Fusionware joining the FDA’s challenge for improved food safety, using its traceability technology and commitment to modernizing the food supply chains? 

A no-brainer.

The New Era of Food Safety challenge centers around four core elements: 

  • Tech-enabled traceability: The food industry requires modernization, and Fusionware’s platform, which allows for digital traceability from the moment a product is shipped, is leading the charge.
  • Smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response: A fast response to a foodborne illness outbreak can often mean saved lives. And a fast response depends on optimization of a supply chain’s operations. Fusionware is the best in the industry at pushing along that optimization, every step of the way.
  • New business models and retail modernization: With a massive increase in online grocery shopping thanks to widespread Covid-19 lockdowns, it’s important the food industry works to educate consumers and distributors about food safety issues within this segment.
  • Food safety culture: From the moment a food product is shipped, until it’s purchased by a customer, Fusionware is streamlining and optimizing the food supply chain step by step. When companies invest in that optimization, traceability, and technology, they’re declaring their commitment to a culture of food safety, from one end of the supply chain to the other.

The FDA New Era of Smarter Food Safety challenge “invites submissions for tech-enabled solutions that address traceability needs” that address primary producers, importers, manufacturers/processors, distributors, and retailers. 

If anything, the last year and a half of response to the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the industry the importance of modernizing the supply chain, cleanliness, easier communication, and more digital traceability tools within an outdated system.

And as the industry continues to evolve (often at warp speed) and be introduced to new technology, adaptability and traceability will only become more important. 

“To take advantage of current and future technological tools and methods, food safety must digitize,” said food traceability expert Thomas Burke, MPH. “Thoughtful application of industry standards and open source software will usher in dramatically improved preventative food safety strategies across the supply chain through visibility and actionability, all underpinned by unique identification of food objects and their context.”

The food industry is at a crucial time where it has a chance to completely reimagine food safety. With increased access to technology and digital tools, the industry has the power to drastically reduce chances of foodborne illness outbreaks. And Fusionware is committed to leading that charge — whether it’s through the FDA’s challenge, or through our everyday products and services that work to improve food safety across the entire industry. 

We are indeed entering a new era in the food industry — and that era should come with more technology, more traceability of our food supply, and fewer instances of foodborne illness. 

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