Where to start when establishing traceability standards

by Anna Wiber
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Cocoa Supply
Companies should track internationally sourced ingredients, like cocoa, back to the country of origin.  

While sourcing  has always been an important issue for food manufacturers, an increased focus on sustainability and ethical supply chains is forcing companies to rethink methods and establish traceability standards and goals that align with consumer expectations.

If a business is looking to update its system for sourcing, speaking with its ingredient suppliers is a neccesary first step.

“It’s important for bakers to gain an understanding of their vendor’s supply chain,” said Ilse Tarantino, North America sustainability lead, purchasing, Cargill. “This can be particularly critical with ingredients that are not domestic, such as cocoa. In such instances, it’s important to ask if supply chains stretch all the way back to the country of origin.” 

Understanding how supply chain structures function can clear up any grey areas and provide a safeguard for companies. Asking suppliers to sign a code of conduct also increases accountability, said Mikkel Thrane, sustainability leader, DuPont Nutrition & Health. By establishing standard definitions and outlining requirements, little room will be left for misunderstandings or errors. Requirements can include guidelines for sourcing, monitoring compliance and reporting violations.

 

As ingredient traceability standards become the norm, food manufacturers will be expected to deliver data points to consumers as well. Following a program’s progress and documenting incoming ingredients allows food companies to remain transparent and lead the discussion.

Using software that specifically tracks the ingredients coming in and out of a facility helps keep information organized and easily accessible.

“Electronic records ensure that ingredients with the expected level of quality were used in the production process for a consistent customer experience,” said Jenn Brusco, marketing director, TraceGains.

Irregular quality and false labelling claims — intentional or not — will lose customers. Before products leave an operation, it’s ultimately up to baking and snack companies to verify the authenticity of items, Ms. Brusco added.

Investing in resources that tackle these issues will only help build a business’ reputation.

“Many organizations are not currently equipped to audit the supply chain inside and out,” said Robert White, president, Focus Works. “The audit is key to the success of the program.”

In the future, companies will have to train and possibly add staff members to maintain traceability standards and help manufacturers reach these new goals.
 
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