Farm to Fork – Where Does the Trace Start?

July 1st, 2013

In the course of tracking consumer product safety, when should the tracking start and whose responsibility is it really?

Today’s post is by Mark Davis; Sr. Vice President and COO at SafeSourcing. 

The process of traceability in the products we purchase and consume every day has grown in urgency significantly other the past few decades.  As the origins of where a product began its life have begun cloudier due to increased international sources of raw materials the importance of being able to track a product is critical.  This is especially true when those points of origins begin in countries whose safety standards and processes are not the same as the US.  As we examine this process today we will focus on a few of the key areas and challenges that must be recognized in order for companies to begin getting a handle on the process.

Who’s responsibility is it? – The official answer this varies from industry to industry depending on what regulations have been passed to deal with the responsibility.   Unofficially the answer is that it is every entity who touches the product in some way from the time it is grown or manufacturer until it is the customer’s hands.  For the food industry, for example, there are laws like the Bioterrorism Act of 2002 which calls for food companies to have vision into their products one step before they got it and one step after it leaves them.  Assuming each party was handling their part, the line of tracking could be built as intended.  There are challenges with processes like this still which we will discuss below, but the concept is easy.  If you want people to trust you and your products, you should know as much as you possibly can about the pieces that go into creating them in order to fully protect your customers.

What are the challenges? – The challenges facing traceability are not unlike those facing many processes in industries where paper has and continues to be the medium of choice; technology, or lack thereof.  To effectively be able to track the origins of products there must some consistency in the level of technology being used so that data can be shared as well uniformity in how that data is going to be logged and used.  Along with the technology gaps there are also gaps in regulation where some parties in the supply chain are not required to track anything they do.  Without the regulation to enforce the safety, the process begins to develop holes and these holes lead to major delay issues especially when considering the parties in the supply chain that do not choose to track voluntarily are many times the source of issues that arise.

Where do we go from here? –  The beginning steps necessary to begin tracking happen with two channels.  The first channel focuses on how you track the origins of your own products.  This includes understanding where the raw materials you use are coming from as well as understanding the channels that handle your product once it leaves your facilities.  The second channel is by demanding that same level of insight from the vendors whose products you consume in your company.  Understanding the origins of your copy paper, cleaning supplies, roofing material, etc .  will begin to build a culture where safety at all levels is a top priority for your business.

At SafeSourcing we know companies are interested in the safety of their employees and their customers and while traceability may be something of great interest, knowing how to get there can sometimes be a challenge.  Helping business “source” safer is extremely important to us and how we do business.  For more information on how we can help you “source safer” or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

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