Nearly 15 million Americans suffer from some sort of food allergy – gluten intolerance, peanut, pine nut anaphylaxis – that includes 6 million children.
Allergies in the U.S. are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Allergies impact everyday life and wellbeing, but also make grocery shopping and food preparation much more complicated.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has strict regulations regarding food labeling and ingredients, so for food engineers and recipe-based manufacturers, a digital product data management system is essential for fast and easy documentation of all rule-consistent product information. Allergies and food intolerance make rule-consistent product labeling the highest possible priority.
Nutritional values – a big challenge
Customer demands for transparency can be quite challenging for most organizations. The sheer volume of data that is required for a completely transparent process – from research and development to marketplace – requires significant organizational, documentational and programming effort.
Compliance with global regulatory requirements and adherence to rule-consistent product information disclosure standards requires organizations in Europe to specify all required product information online as well. However, product recipes and production environments are constantly changing, requiring ongoing and comprehensive data updates.
This is a significant use of resources – studies indicate that up to 50 percent of employee time is spent on data loading, maintenance and management. Manually entering new product information is highly susceptible to human error, requires time and elevates product cost, since inconsistencies occur throughout the process of generating large data volumes.
The Big 7
Updated FDA labeling rules recently went into effect. The changes include:
- Defining calories as fat
- Per serving language
- Added sugars language
- Daily reference values
Likewise, the European Union implemented requirements for the placement of nutritional values on product packaging. The following values must be given to be in compliance with Europe’s rule-consistent product information requirements:
- Saturated fats
The Health Claims Regulation
Attention-grabbing advertising on product labels, like ‘No sugar added’ or ‘fat free’ declarations often indicate more healthy choices – but there have been several high-profile lawsuits regarding the veracity of the labels and the claims.
Regulations and requirements vary from country to country, and organizations that sell their products globally must be aware of the rules, regulations and best practices in each country.
In Switzerland, the nutritional values database includes all rule-consistent product information regarding the composition of food products available for purchase. This information normally refers to macro- and micronutrients, water, alcohol, and energy content, nutritional fibers, and fat composition.
While Germany and Austria require nutritional labeling that is regulated by the EU, Switzerland is not bound by these laws. However, in the future, Swiss food law is slated to align itself with the EU legislation. The declaration of nutritional values has been mandatory in Switzerland since May 1, 2017.
Product data management for rule-consistent product information
Regulatory standards are rapidly changing across the globe – nearly as soon as food and beverage companies aligned with regulations, a new rule is passed.
For instance, the EU food data regulations have recently expanded to include a new provision for mandatory labeling. This not only affects the physical retail world, but also the digital domain. Clients and business partners must now be able to access the same information online as at the store. The online distribution and availability of rule-consistent product information raises a new challenge for food manufacturers and retailers.
Recipe-based food and beverage manufacturers who understand and employ digitalization have a decisive advantage, but non-automatized organizations will undoubtably have a harder time keeping up. In addition to fluctuating recipe and production environments, data volumes continue to grow, increasing the possibility of sourcing errors – in a time where consumers demand greater transparency and traceability.
Manually managing all business data is not the best way forward. The most advantageous solution is an innovative centralized digital product data management system (PDM) that provides manufacturers and retailers to access the information, benefitting both companies and clients.
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