The Silver Lining of FSMA Compliance? Leveraging the Cloud
It may seem counterintuitive that any government regulation could generate an opportunity for operators in the supermarket industry. But that is exactly the case with the much talked about Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While it's true that retailers and their trading partners need to make some investments and change some business practices to comply with FSMA regulations, in doing so they can bolster other processes and technologies to further reduce brand risk and cut costs.
FSMA requires retailers to have the documentation for regulatory compliance readily accessible for government inspection, with specific records required for retailers that have a central kitchen or commissary, transport food, or are deemed to be the procurer of foreign products. Add these records to the business relationship records they should already be maintaining like indemnifications and certificates of insurance that help manage brand risk, and the list becomes quite long.
The most manageable element of FSMA compliance for a retailer resides with its top vendors, which represent the majority of sales and likely have the processes and technologies in place to ensure both vendor and retailer have the proper documentation. The biggest challenge for FSMA compliance resides among the other 4,000 to 5,000 vendors that may not have the sophistication to maintain appropriate food safety plans and records. Collecting and managing the information from these vendors can be costly and labor-intensive for food retailers.
The good news is that cloud-based technology now exists to help retailers and suppliers alike meet FSMA requirements while working to prevent outbreaks and quickly limiting situations when they occur. This technology goes beyond just storing digital copies of documents – it helps manage compliance with exception-based alerts for expired, missing or inaccurate records. It can also be the basis of a new vendor approval process that incorporates compliance of records. By linking and automating the management of compliance documentation and the new vendor approval process, companies save time and allow for redeployment of resources to more productive activities.
Notably, if a company wants to reduce brand risk, linking compliance management data with the purchase order system will swiftly and effectively accomplish that goal. Holding a P.O. for a non-compliant vendor protects the retailer, the vendor and the consumer, and communicates a commitment to food safety within the entire supply chain.
There are many reasons to leverage an interoperable, cloud-based solution, and in addition to preventing food safety issues, cloud-based technology helps retailers accurately identify products and their ingredients to enable confirmation of social compliance.
In all, FSMA provides the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with new enforcement authorities, and these changes will have a significant impact on food retailers and wholesalers. FMI's No. 1 priority is to educate the industry on what's needed for compliance, and to provide resources and partners that can help its members take action. However, complying with these new regulations doesn't have to represent an incremental investment in technology or staffing. If you look at your options for a cloud-based solution with an eye for where you can bolster your current processes and optimize your staff, you'll come out ahead and be FSMA-compliant.