In recent decades, the food industry has faced questions regarding the creditability of food, its source and ability to deliver consumables safely and in desired quality. The outbreak of foodborne diseases, bacteria, viruses has led to more stringent laws and regulations across the world, including those under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

The World Health Organization estimated that the percentage of the population suffering from foodborne diseases each year is up to 30% in industrialized countries. In addition, food scandals such as unhygienic delivery and fraudulent food preparations have raised concerns among consumers over the quality and safety of the delivery system. To integrate quality management into the supply chain network, quality assurance has become an essential need that can be met with effective traceability.  According to ISO 9000 (2005) standards, traceability is defined as ‘‘the ability to trace the history, application or location of that which is under consideration”.

Traceability, built on unique barcoding system is the ability of the system to identify, track and trace the products throughout the supply chain, with scan of barcodes. In the food supply chain, traceability has also turned into a tool for complying with legal requirements, besides consumer safety.  Also, it offers continuous monitoring, quality control, systematic information sharing, and increased transparency between different parties of the food chain.

Food supply chains deal with consumable products like meat, ice cream, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and finished products such as chocolates, packaged food items, etc., that are highly susceptible to quality degradation and their freshness needs to be maintained. These products have a variable shelf life, sensitive to storage and transportation conditions like temperature and humidity. Therefore, they require continuous monitoring to ensure the product meets standard quality requirements.

One of the biggest challenges of any food chain is the intermittent nature of the supply chain. It consists of various stages, each of which has to ensure the exact same product conditions until the product reaches the consumer. For example, the manufacturer has to ensure product delivery in the right conditions to third-party logistics (3PL) providers that maintain the desired controlled conditions throughout the shipment.

Though the operations involved in food chains are similar to any other supply chain, they are much more complex because of their multiple controlling parameters.  Clerical and administrative tasks may slow down the supply chain and affect product quality drastically. Hence, product tracking & tracing, and automation of supply chain are essential to make the entire process faster and flexible. 

GS1 standards have already proven effective in managing food chains by providing cost-effective and fast quality management solutions through its traceability services.  They assist in continuous monitoring, auditing, and compliance to quality standards. They allow backtracking and forward tracking to get into the product history and predict the future delivery issues. Barcodes ensure unique identification of products through Global Trade Identification Numbers (GTIN), which is essential for establishing efficient tracing and recall in case of a breach in safety and quality standards.

Many leading organizations in the food and pharmaceutical industry are already using GS1 standards-based traceability solutions.  High transparency, mobility, cost-effectiveness, effortless tracing has revolutionized food chains using GS1 traceability standards. 

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