The importance of traceability in your supply chain

Traceability is now taking centre stage as a vital component of an organisation’s supply chain process.

In September 2012, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) provided updated information for Australian food businesses regarding their requirements for food product traceability and product recall obligations in the supply chain process. It is important that all food and beverage suppliers understand their obligations in these two critical areas.

According to FSANZ, traceability in the Australian food sector should enable businesses to identify the source of all inputs such as raw materials, additives, other ingredients and packaging on the basis of one step forward and one step back at any point in the supply chain.

Traceability enables food businesses to target the product(s) involved in a food safety problem, thereby minimising disruption to trade and reducing potential public health risks.

FSANZ stated that an effective product traceability system will not only help isolate and prevent contaminated products reaching consumers in the event of a product recall, it will also help Australian food businesses protect their brands. FSANZ also requires food businesses to be able to provide information about the food it has on its premises and where it came from. This important information must be produced on request from an authorised officer of FSANZ.

As traceability professionals, GS1 Australia welcomed the FSANZ announcement and its recognition about the importance of traceability, particularly in the event of a product recall.

Marcel Sieira, GS1 Australia’s general manager, business development, said an organisation’s requirement to track and trace a raw material, ingredient or packaging material through all stages of its production, processing and distribution to the end consumer as a fully packaged item is an often undervalued and unrecognised ability within an organisation.

“The increasing demands for food product safety for consumers, major supermarkets and regulatory authorities can only help Australian food businesses focus on the need for an improved ability to track and trace products up and down their supply chains,” he said.  

Traceability is an important part of an organisation’s product recall management plan, said Steve Hather, managing director of the RQA Product Risk Institute.

“Where we see companies struggle with recalls is often in those first critical stages of investigating incidents and making the decision to recall,” he said.

“Not having effective traceability processes and people trained in using them can often lead to delays in actioning a product recall. This is one of the leading causes of incidents escalating into a crisis.

”Roughly one-third of the total cost of a recall is in business interruption. Companies should have effective business continuity programs in place to minimise disruption and get back into business as soon as possible after a recall or other disruptive events.

“Being out of the market for an extended period of time can lead to loss of shelf space for a period of time, or worse – loss of key customers. The ability for a company to successfully track and trace their products through their supply chain and retrieve them from the marketplace is a key component in the decision by the relevant regulatory authorities to finally close out an organisation’s product recall.”

This is why GS1 Australia includes traceability as a key component of the “Effective Product Recall Management Workshops” held jointly with RQA Product Risk Institute.

As well as examining risk management, incident identification, escalation, the product recall management plan and business communications, the workshops provide training on GS1 Recallnet, which eases traceability and the process of delivering information to trading partners and regulatory authorities.

GS1 Recallnet is GS1 Australia’s secure web-based portal for the management of recall and withdrawal notifications. Based on global GS1 standards and best practices, GS1 Recallnet simplifies and automates the exchange of information between suppliers, distributors and retailers as well as government agencies such as FSANZ and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). 

By increasing the speed and accuracy of recall and withdrawal notifications, GS1 Recallnet significantly decreases business and consumer risk, reduces costs, protects brands and ultimately, helps improve food safety in Australia.

The Effective Recall Management Workshops (GS1/RQA workshops) for 2013 will take place as follows:

• Wednesday 6th March 2013 in Melbourne
• Thursday 7th March 2013 in Sydney


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