Mastering Food Industry Regulatory Compliance

For any food business, the thought of being hit by a hefty fine, recall or even shutdown as a result of falling short of industry regulations is indeed a scary one. And, while remaining compliant has always been a major challenge for food producers, manufacturers and processors, there is a growing sense that many simply aren’t equipped for the modern demands of regulators.

This article examines why exactly compliance is so challenging, why it’s so important for such stringent regulations to be enforced and how businesses can truly get to grips with them. We’ll discuss the role digital transformation, in particular the implementation of technology like food enterprise resource planning (ERP), can play in making sure compliance headaches are a thing of the past.

Compliance: An Increasingly Complex Picture

A number of changes in recent years have led to a tightening of food industry regulations and an increase in the number of requirements businesses must meet to prove the safety and quality of their food. These new developments include:

  • An increase in product recalls and food safety breaches. A number of high-profile incidents over the last decade or so—such as the 2017 Fipronil eggs contamination—have heightened the need for tougher traceability regulations. Analysis of Food Standards Agency (FSA) data found a 70% increase in UK product recalls between 2012 and 2017. Meanwhile in the US, class I recalls (recalls actioned because there is a strong possibility contaminated food could cause health problems) of meat and poultry rose by a staggering 83% between 2013 and 2018. Many of these recalls have only occurred because of improved visibility brought about by previous regulatory upgrades. But each new food safety breach brings an opportunity for learning and potentially a new regulation to prevent something similar happening in the future.

  • Increasingly complex supply chains. As the world continues to become a smaller and smaller place, the way our food is produced grows in complexity. Products are being made up of more ingredients than ever before, while shifting consumer demands are forcing businesses to diversify their offerings. This has made supply chains longer and more splintered, with products traveling through more facilities and heading in many different directions before they reach consumers. Supply chains are also more global than ever, meaning food companies must track products over longer distances, across multiple borders, and contend with divergent standards between regions.

  • Greater public desire to know the quality and provenance of food. These days, consumers are simply more switched-on about food quality—and want guarantees that they are getting what they have been promised. They also want assurances about where the food that ends up on their plate has come from and if it can be trusted as “honest”. This is especially pertinent given the growing desire for organic and sustainable foods. Writing in a 2018 Deloitte report, Nadine Kuster, General Secretary at Danone, said: “...food trends like vegan, vegetarian and organic require new regulations to guarantee a fair level playing field for all food producers and to prevent consumers from being misled.” This also feeds into tougher labelling requirements—as of 2016, the EU has required most pre-packaged food to have a label declaring key nutritional information while the U.S. also requires clear labeling of allergens and nutritional value of food.

  • Wide-reaching legislation coming into effect. The most famous example of this was the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in the U.S. The act gave the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greater powers to implement regulations designed to prevent the occurrence of foodborne illnesses, and has shaped the course of food safety regulations and what has been asked of American food businesses over the last 10 years. The FDA now plans to build on this framework by leveraging emerging technologies to help the industry put safety and sustainability at the heart of everything it does.

Best Practices for Food Businesses to Guarantee Regulatory Compliance

It can seem like these rules are forever changing and putting constant pressure on you to adapt your traceability processes. With all the extra work needed to ensure compliance in the modern food industry, there are several areas you can focus your efforts, including:

Procedural Consistency

It’s far easier for a food safety or quality breach to slip through the net if production processes haven’t been correctly followed. This is why it’s vital to have clearly defined procedures in place as well as the mechanisms to ensure they are always followed. Strong recipe management, tracking and tracing is key to ensuring every batch produced adheres to regulations.

Quality Control

Even the best procedures will sometimes go awry, and that’s why you need to embed checks and balances throughout your production lines. Quality control isn’t just about checking products before they leave your facility—it means putting a series of safeguards in place from the moment ingredients arrive on site.

Labeling

As we discussed before, it’s never been more important to fully and accurately label food products. If a product is under-labeled—or worse still, incorrectly labeled—you run the risk of products being mis-sold, and that’s especially damaging when it comes to allergens.

Proactive Risk Management

Ensuring compliance means satisfying hundreds or even thousands of rules—clearly too many for any member of staff to remember. This is why you need to have in place a centralized database of potential hazards, each with their own control measures, which every action can be checked against.

Take Advantage of Technology

Human error is a fact of life—especially in an environment like food production or processing—but it will be no defense if something goes wrong. As traceability requirements continue to expand, technologies like blockchain, GS1 barcode labeling and sensor technology will one day be mandatory parts of every food business’ traceability setup.

The Role of Food and Beverage ERP in Ensuring Regulatory Compliance

Food industry regulatory compliance is only becoming harder to achieve—and it’s clear that the old way of doing things will no longer suffice. Many food companies still rely heavily on manual record-keeping and multiple systems to store data for different parts of the business. What this creates is a fractured organization lacking consistency of information and an environment where mistakes can easily occur.

This is why companies of all sizes are turning to food industry ERP. A food and beverage ERP integrates all parts of a food business—creating one point of truth where information flows freely between all departments. This is crucial when it comes to ensuring the procedural consistency, proactive risk management, correct labeling and integration of new technology that are required for businesses to be compliant.

Our solution—Aptean Food & Beverage ERP—is built to handle the specific challenges of the food industry and comes with a host of tools to keep businesses compliant and help them react rapidly in the event of non-compliance:

  • Lot traceability

  • Shelf life management

  • Recipe management

  • Quality control

  • Recall functionality

To find out how Aptean Food & Beverage ERP can help your business, contact us today.