9 U.S. Compliance Trends Impacting Food Supply Chains

12th September 2017
From Don Low

9 U.S. Compliance Trends Impacting Food Supply Chain

To keep consumers safe, earn brand trust and stand out in the crowded grocery sector, U.S. retailers and suppliers must understand and adapt to compliance and trends affecting their private label and national brand food products.

Labelling and food safety

A major trend among American food companies is their need to adapt to labeling compliance, which refers to information they must provide about a product. They must also adhere to food safety compliance, which involves certifying a supply chain to ensure food is safe by meeting minimum food safety requirements for products or ingredients that come from sources outside the U.S.

Legislation covers both labeling and food safety compliance, which are driven by the Food Safety Modernization Act, and such agencies as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Legislation delay creates opportunity

Recent industry attention for labeling compliance has focused on the nutrition fact panel update, which has already made a huge impact on the food industry. Retail companies are concerned with the increased costs and effort required to gather and communicate extra product information to help shoppers know exactly what they’re buying. The original date for industry implementation was July 2018; however, the U.S. government has delayed the compliance date by three or four years due to limited resources available to undertake such an enormous change.

While the extension prompted Big Food companies (with vast product catalogs) to let out a sigh of relief, there was a moan of dismay from consumer groups who want to educate consumers to encourage healthier product choices.

Complying with the nutrition fact panel is also expensive and time consuming, as retail companies must change all their product packaging and artwork. In addition, they must ensure the data is correct on the product label, so suppliers must know what their ingredients suppliers use, including added sugar. Despite the cost and effort, this nutrition data matters, as the brand owner (a private label retailer or national brand) is held responsible for the final product.



Additional U.S. compliance and trends that require more detailed product data and stronger collaboration across the supply chain include:

  • Menu labeling: Originally effective as of May 2017 but now extended until May 2018, this legislation applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations. Food products produced in-store, such as foodservice and premade meals, which represent a huge market in America, will be impacted. Companies must provide calories and key nutrient facts on product labels or on visible menu boards in restaurants.
  • Foreign Supplier Verification Program: This program requires importers to perform certain risk-based activities to verify that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards such as Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). These standards include preventative controls for food safety and an action plan if any product failures occur. Companies also require auditable documentation to prove they meet the minimum standards for the U.S. market.
  • Use of GMOs in the food chain: The U.S. Senate issued its own guidance (rather than mandatory legislation) on the labelling of products derived from genetically modified organisms due to vocal demand from consumer groups.
  • ‘Natural’ on label: The USDA partnered with the FDA to develop and issue regulations in the appropriate usage of “natural” labels; yet, the FDA does not have specific rules for “natural” labeling. The agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. Since there is no clear, universal definition of ‘natural’ products, retailers and manufacturers are actively using alternative terms, such as ‘free-from.’
  • Clean labeling: Driven by consumer pressure for health and wellness options, some retail companies are choosing to be very transparent about their product ingredients, while also limiting chemicals and additives.
  • GS1/GMA SmartLabel program: Given the limited amount of space on product labels, this program helps companies provide more details, driven by consumer pressure. Consumers can scan a QR code or search on a dedicated website to access standardized product data, such as where the product came from, how it was produced and extended details regarding ingredients and suppliers.

To encourage retailers and suppliers to collaborate and share product data to adapt to these U.S. compliance trends, Trace One ensures our solutions are ready for these changes well ahead of industry deadlines. For a proactive approach to compliance, our supplier collaboration programs educate suppliers on relevant regional compliance trends through communications and surveys.  For consistency, we promote standardized data and validation, and our solutions are flexible and configurable to a retailer’s needs and region to protect consumers and retail companies alike.


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