As today’s consumers continue to evolve and change how they shop for products, the need for transparency and trust is one aspect that continues to be consistent—especially for products in the food and beverage industry.
Consumers have an increasing interest about our food system—knowing where their food comes from, how it was made, and more importantly, knowing that they can trust that the products will be safe to consume when they hit store shelves and ultimately, for their families at home.
In fact, according to a recent study by the Center of Food Integrity, 59% of people surveyed said that food safety was one of their top concerns. The study also showed that while consumers hold food companies as the second-most accountable party to ensure food safety (second only to federal regulatory agencies), consumers say that food companies are the least trustworthy entity for ensuring safe food. With a troubling increase in food recalls and news stories about foodborne illnesses, it’s not hard to see why.
Food safety is a significant issue that impacts millions of people, businesses and industries each year. While transportation is just one aspect of the supply chain, it is an area that is just as important as any other when it comes to ensuring the safety of our food. Considering that transportation is one-third of the supply chain—from farms, to transportation, to stores/restaurants before reaching consumers—it is essential that all parties work together to ensure that food reaches consumers in a safe manner to prevent foodborne illnesses, and most importantly, to build trust and transparency among consumers.
Closing the Trust Gap
While regulations have been in place for years to monitor the safety of the food supply chain, in recent years there has been a heightened focus on the topic and where things “go wrong” in the shipping and handling of our food. Coupled with an increasing distrust of food regulators and companies’ ability to keep food safe, Congress decided it was time to act.
Beginning in June 2017, companies transporting food must comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which requires shippers and carriers to consider and track things such as temperature, exchange of logging data, cleanliness records and proper training for food handling to ensure that food is delivered safely throughout the entire transportation process. These new regulations not only set higher standards for the handling of food throughout the supply chain, but has also increased accountability and collaboration by shifting away from reacting to foodborne illnesses, to preventing them.
While FSMA works to provide more guidance to the transportation and logistics industry, and to close the gap in consumer trust and confidence, there is still some work to be done. The biggest challenge currently for shippers and carriers is finding efficient and accurate ways to share data. By law, shippers are required to monitor food products throughout the supply chain all the way to consumers, however, many carriers simply don’t have the systems in place to track this freight in real time.
Additionally, many are still tracking manually or with inefficient software, which often causes discrepancies and lag time in reporting. The good news is, there is a rise of freight visibility solutions that have enabled both shippers and carriers to implement a solution that allows for real-time visibility and monitoring of food shipments while also creating operational efficiencies—all of which will help food companies become more trusted with their consumer base.
While FSMA may still have its challenges, it is a regulation with which shippers and carriers can’t afford to be non-compliant. Not only are there the financial implications of losing potential earnings from product sales, fines, suspensions of facility registration and other economic losses related to non-compliance, but there are also other non-monetary consequences as well, such as the potential loss of drivers to other carriers who are more highly trusted, and losing the trust of your customers, making this one regulation you simply cannot afford to ignore.
Trimble Transportation recently published a whitepaper, “Understanding FSMA,” with strategies to address these challenges and more. Read more by downloading the free whitepaper here.
Wilbur Deck is a Sr. Manager of Solutions Engineering with Trimble’s Transportation Division.