More food industry companies adopting digital tech to ensure food safety, says GS1 India CEO

More companies in the food industry are adopting digital technology to ensure food safety with the advanced blockchain being used widely to trace the origin and movement of products across the value chain, says S Swaminathan, CEO, GS1 India. “As more food companies are coming to terms with the role of digital technology in ensuring food safety, its adoption of the mechanisms that facilitate the processes is increasing rapidly,” he told businessline in an email interaction. 

Earlier known as EAN India, GS1 was set up in 1996 to help Indian exporters adopt and implement global barcoding standards. It was a joint initiative of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO,) Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), Indian Merchant Chambers (IMC), Spices Board, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA), and Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP). 

Supporting digi tech

Blockchain is one of the leading mechanisms that is supporting digital technology and, in addition, the food industry is also embracing the use of sensors and IoT devices to monitor food temperature, moisture level, humidity and other external factors that tend to influence food safety during storage and transit, he said. 

The feature has been helping manufacturers and retailers recall a batch of products they deem compromised in terms of quality. This has been crucial in safeguarding public health and improving the relationship between product buyers and sellers, said Swaminathan. “In our observation, traceability has helped significantly improve the quality of products by enabling companies to trace the movement of goods across the value chain with more ease. In addition, it has made extracting product information like source of origin, product batch number, product details, expiry dates, and sustainability certification possible in real-time, making it a lot easier to identify them,” the GS1 CEO said. 

Pushing up exports

The biggest improvement has been in manufacturers’ ability to identify and address loss points across the supply chain. This has offered them more control when recalling products from the supply chain to ensure food safety and quality at all stages, he said. “This feature has helped create value for manufacturers, supply-chain operators and consumers and reduced the risk of contamination and fraud on a broader scale,” said Swaminathan.

Traceability has also helped increase exports by enabling companies to build relationships with their customers based on trust. “Typically, by facilitating traceability, companies make crucial details like the product’s origin and quality available to buyers, which makes the process transparent and lowers the risk of substandard product delivery,” he said. 

This has helped companies establish themselves as an authentic and reliable entity in the market, resulting in increasing their sales volume.

Increasing transparency

The GS1 CEO said implementing the norms of standardisation in product labelling and embracing digital technology in the food industry has helped companies improve their efficiency across all levels of the supply chain. “Firstly, it has helped businesses increase their products’ transparency in the market and meet the standardisation requirements mandated in the food industry. …the prevalent risk of fraud has been lowered significantly. In fact, the standardisation and smooth access to real-time information about products have improved product safety and facilitated a more efficient flow of communication between brands and the supply chain,” Swaminathan said. 

This has boosted consumer confidence in the food brands and their products. “Consumers today are now much more aware and have accessibility to details about products’ origin, the ingredients used, and more importantly their quality and shelf-life,” he said.  

Swaminathan said as a “standards organisation that caters to all primary industries”, GS1 is constantly improving its offerings and support services. “We offer comprehensive training and support to our subscribers to help them master GS1 standard norms to meet local and global standardisation regulatory requirements and implement them appropriately across their practice,” he said.

GS1 also offers masterclasses where live sessions are organised on the basis of relevant industry requirements.  “These courses are designed to provide insights into how companies can implement GS1 standards to improve their operational efficiency and improve the supply chain,” he said.

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