In November, the FDA cut the ribbon to a calorie labeling initiative that would incite nationwide awareness of nutritional standards for packaged foods and beverages. Within the next year, U.S. consumers will see a more transparent FDA system, including what they eat away from home. In fact, Americans eat and drink about one-third of their daily calorie intake outside their own kitchen. In an effort to combat obesity, the FDA will now regulate calorie labeling in convenience stores, bakeries, coffee shops, pizza delivery, amusement parks and vending machines – to name a few.

While the motion effects retail food restaurant chains, it also touches vending machines and convenience stores. This movement has propelled the foundation born from the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act. In general, operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines will be required to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, as will major convenience stores.

With these regulations comes more data to track and quality to manage, and in order to ensure quality, it would be beneficial to enterprises to implement additional quality processes to automate and manage internal auditing and observations, complaint management, deviations and defect management, and external supplier and third-party auditing requirement, monitoring and tracking the flow of raw materials from point-of-origin to point-of-use destinations to increase visibility throughout the value chain. Managing the changing consumer demands will rely heavily on accountability and automation.

Increase accountability

Unlike many produce and specialty products in a grocery store that can originate from anywhere in the world, packaged foods have much less variety. While in some respects this may seem like a simpler task to maintain food quality from international suppliers, it poses the challenge of standardization amongst them. Labeling orders must be universally followed and enforced.

Internal auditing and observation will play a key role in sustaining control over the entire production and distribution cycle. The FDA’s labeling initiative puts extra pressure on manufacturers and distributors to ensure quality, placing even more importance on implementing additional quality processes throughout the supply chain.

Add automation

Ultimately, the key to making this particular labeling initiative a success is enabling food & beverage organizations to meet customer demands and improve standardization across the board. An automated quality management system can reduce costs associated with this complicated process. Without it, paper-tracking and coordination can turn into a global nightmare.

For example, the FDA recently issued a warning that some dark chocolate was ambiguously labeled and actually contained milk ingredients (posing an extreme health threat to some consumers with dietary restrictions). While part of the issue lies with the federal regulation of what labeling needs to disclose to consumers, an automated system helps ensure compliance with the food safety standards and procedures established by newly created or amended Federal regulations, including the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). It will also help manufacturers and suppliers avoid a Class 11 food recall, which can pose a serious threat to brand reputation. Simply put, automation should be an investment that food and beverage companies make in this new era of food safety.

Consumers are becoming more and more curious as to what goes into their bodies, and with that curiosity comes a call to action by the FDA – more transparency, more labels, more ‘cooks in the kitchen.’ Keeping a keen eye on supply chain operations will help ensure a more seamless food labeling process.

 Kuchinski has 20 years of product management and marketing experience with a focus on consumer packaged goods, chemicals, life sciences and technology. Prior to joining Sparta Systems (, she focused on developing products and solutions to support companies across multiple industries to enhance functionality, increase efficiencies and reduce costs. Kuchinski held product management and marketing positions at Merck Chemical, GS1, Checkpoint Systems and GE Capital. She has an MBA from LaSalle University and received her Six Sigma Green Belt certification while at GE Capital.