Retail expert claims validation is critical to protect consumer health and increase efficiency
Private label software specialist Trace One is urging retailers and manufacturers to review their validation process for product information ahead of EU food labelling legislation being published this month. The retail expert suggests that many organisations risk failing official inspections or worse, putting consumer health at risk, if they are unable to prove that their product information is accurate and true.
Amina West, Vice President, Northern Europe at Trace One said: “Following major food scares like the BSE crisis, knowing the geographic location of where products, and their raw materials, have come from is essential to ensure the safety of consumers. While County of Origin Labelling (COOL) will go some way to resolve this, it’s not just about labelling. Retailers and manufacturers need to be able to prove that all the information on their products is accurate, particularly when subject to labelling authority inspections. This evidence must be quick and easy to find and be able to be properly validated. With traditional Excel or paper-based records this just isn’t possible, as it doesn’t constitute a legal contract between manufacturer and retailer. The industry should be looking at collaborative solutions, where information on products can now be kept and validated online.”
The UK is already more advanced than other markets with nutrition labelling. Packaging often includes a detailed traffic light system or GDA table, which indicates the amount of nutrients within a product. However, in light of the economic climate, consumer demand and changing legislation, alterations to products are increasingly required. For instance, a retailer might look to improve a product range or reduce the amount of fat or salt. This means the nutrition labels need to be changed accordingly.
West concluded: “10 years ago the market was very different. Retailers and manufacturers were free to make changes to products, without the need to track these. Now, we are in a very different situation, as consumer demand and stricter legislation means that any alterations need to be validated and accurately communicated. To avoid any mistakes from human error, the retail industry should be looking at using automated systems during the product development and packaging stages to make changes to product specifications in real-time. This will reduce the amount of mistakes, which will save on costs, administration and time wasted when having to repeat the packaging process, as well as helping with any potential food crises. This will mean that retailers and manufacturers can focus on innovating and bringing products to market quicker, thereby increasing margins.”