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Q-and-A: GS1US’ Angela Fernandez on the importance of supply chain traceability

4 min read

Food Retail

Angela Fernandez is the vice president of retail grocery and foodservice for GS1 US. The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative was launched in 2009 as an industrywide effort to streamline the supply chain, enhance product information and build a foundation for food safety and traceability.

SmartBrief interviewed Fernandez on how she thinks this initiative is changing the foodservice industry, and how it intersects with traceability programs regarding fresh foods and retail grocery.

What are the top foodservice priorities for 2014?

Food traceability and access to complete and accurate nutritional and allergen information (including gluten-free) continue to be top areas of focus in the industry due to impending federal regulations around food safety and menu-labeling. Leveraging GS1 Standards can help companies take proactive steps to stay ahead of legislative and consumer expectations. Many leading chain restaurants and their supply chain management companies are creating change in the foodservice industry through active participation in the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, an industry-wide collaboration dedicated to improving food safety, supply chain efficiencies and product information.

How do you define traceability?

Traceability is all about supply chain visibility that allows trading partners to know where a product is at any time and point on the product’s journey. In foodservice, that journey would start at the manufacturer and/or supplier in a case of fresh or packaged food, continue to the distributor and through to the restaurant or other foodservice operation. Enabling whole-chain traceability involves linking internal proprietary traceability systems with external systems through the use of GS1 Standards.  We refer to these standards as the global language of business, as they enable trading partners in the global supply chain to talk to one another. By using the same standards, or “language,” to identify and capture data about products, we can then share specific product information more efficiently and accurately, which ultimately benefits both businesses and consumers.

Why is traceability so important for food safety?

The answer to this is two-fold. First, restaurants have a commitment to their consumers to provide safe food, and in order to deliver on this promise, they need to ensure they are receiving a safe product. Secondly, in the event a product has been recalled or similar safety incident, restaurants need to remove those products from their facilities to keep their customers safe and avoid further risks.  GS1 Standards can help foodservice companies accomplish these goals; for example, barcodes have been used for decades to expedite check out lines in retail, but when manufacturers embed these barcodes with extended information, such as lot/batch number and production dates for foodservice products, supply chain partners are better equipped to handle recalls or foodborne illness outbreaks in a more timely manner.

What are foodservice companies doing to ensure better supply chain traceability and visibility?

In order to support this industry-wide goal for enhanced traceability and food safety, leading manufacturers, distributors and operators are examining their internal processes and researching solutions to improve the visibility of their supply chain. The key to this collaboration is using the same “language” so companies and systems can communicate more accurately and work together to resolve food safety issues in a more efficient and timely manner. As such, many companies have chosen to adopt GS1 Standards so they can identify the same products and supply chain locations and share information about these products. In fact, the goal of the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative is for 75 percent of the foodservice industry (measured by revenue) to adopt GS1 Standards for product identification, location identification and data sharing by 2015. Today, the industry is more than halfway toward its goal.

How does the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative intersect with traceability programs regarding fresh foods and retail grocery?

The Initiative’s focus on the traceability process is in alignment with the work of fresh food suppliers, including produce, seafood, dairy/deli/bakery and meat and poultry sectors. GS1 US has been working on facilitating information sharing between the foodservice and retail grocery channels to allow all businesses in the food industry to reap the maximum benefits possible from improved traceability and food safety efforts.

Regarding nutritional and other product information, how can GS1 Standards help restaurants with menu-labeling needs?

GS1 Standards help make complete and accurate product information available for distributors, restaurants and other operators. To adequately meet menu-labeling requirements or consumer expectations, the Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), which contains nutritional, allergen, marketing and other foodservice product information provided by manufacturers, enables the sharing of accurate and up-to-date information for trading partners. This enables companies to better define and gather product information.