Sun Branding Solutions is calling for greater legislation on the disclosure of supply chain visibility one year on from the horse meat scandal.
It claims the Food Information Regulation, EU Regulation 1169/2011, which will become effective in December 2014 could be used to create a significant improvement in the clarity of the supply chain.
Darren Heathcote, business unit director, Sun Branding Solutions, told FoodQualityNews traceability is not apparent throughout the supply chain but only in part.
“There is currently a conflict between the economic, price-pressured environment for food and beverages and the time-honoured UK/European ‘due diligence’ traceability approach of managing "one up, one down" in the supply chain," he said.
He added economic pressure has led to products being sourced from anywhere geographically and suppliers only manage their contacts directly beneath and above them along the chain.
“The former pressure has resulted in raw materials being sourced from an increasingly geographically dispersed supply chain to either reduce or hold prices,” said Heathcote.
“The latter (due diligence re traceability) means there is less awareness of the length and breadth of this chain with the first tier manufacturing base than perhaps there could be (because they are focused on their direct supplier base only, rather than where their direct suppliers are sourcing raw materials from).
“Add to this the fact it’s generally not in the direct suppliers’ interest to disclose its supply chain details because first tier manufactures could use this information to source directly (cutting out the middlemen), and we have a status quo.”
Heathcote said until something changes in the circle, for example, through greater disclosure legislation, then a number of pragmatic challenges will hamper the best-held ambitions of full supply chain visibility.
“The new labelling rules from Europe could be used to create a significant improvement in the clarity of the supply chain, and that will go a long way towards restoring consumer confidence,” he added.
The EU Regulation 1169/2011 changes existing legislation on food labelling including: nutrition information on processed foods; origin labelling of fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry; highlighting allergens e.g. peanuts or milk in the list of ingredients; better legibility i.e. minimum size of text; and requirements on information on allergens.
The law combines two directives into one legislation: 2000/13/EC labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs and 90/496/EEC nutrition labelling for foodstuffs.
Restoring consumer confidence
According to Phil Dalton, head of regulatory at Legal Impackt, Sun Branding Solutions, supermarkets and food manufacturers need to focus on making sure information is correct and presented in a coherent and customer friendly format.
“A lot of focus post-Horsegate has been upstream in the supply chain but that’s invisible to consumers,” he said.
“They assume that’s happening anyway and the fact that it hasn’t been happening is disappointing.
“The way to communicate a positive message is through clear and concise labelling. New labelling rules from Europe have created an opportunity to make a step change in the clarity of labelling that will go a long way towards restoring consumer confidence.”