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Food Specifications - What are the legal requirements?


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#1 Howard Bell

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Posted 06 November 2011 - 09:35 PM

Hi I recently designed and wrote a web based computer system for a client to track their supplier accreditations and food product specifications. This has proven so popular with the suppliers that we have been asked if we can write a more generalised version for suppliers to use in sending specifications to their customers. (The flip side of the coin).

Whilst I had very specific requirements (specification format) from the original customer, I find myself in unknown waters in attempting to analyse what drives the required and optional content of a food specification.

Whilst we have many years experience of designing systems, our food industry knowledge is limited, so wondered if anyone could help with the following questions:

a) Is it conceivably possible to come up with a generalised food specification template that would satisfy the legislative and commercial requirements of food/ingredient purchasing organisations in Europe and suppliers around the world.

b) Is it possible (or even required) to have variations based on product categories? (ie if it's Sea Food/Tuna must show mercury levels), if so which legislation drives these requirements?

Many thanks in advance...



#2 Charles.C

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 09:54 PM

Dear Howard Bell,

Big Project ! :smile:

For an integrated coverage of the globally scoped requirements as suggested in yr post, I would unfortunately tend to simply answer NO. For a variety of reasons, some as indicated below. For narrower scoped objectives, some possibilities exist but whether the narrowness required will automatically defeat the benefit, not so sure :dunno: .

For certain food “categories” / geographical areas some responses to parts of yr post exist. For example, many years ago, the FAO issued "collected" tabulated resources for European countries' legislative seafood product specifications primarily covering microbiological / chemical aspects. Now probably mostly done via the "EC" Secetariat (?) which issues a multiplicity of “general” legislative directives relating to food production / importation for certain defined food categories although such rules can still be internally overlapped by aspects such as “sovereign rights”.

I find it difficult to imagine any possibility of a finite generalisation (BCPA) of commercial specifications (English?) except if related to existing / accessible databases which do exist in some locations, eg Europe, USA, Canada, Australia. For example Codex (voluntary standards) are used for transactions of a variety of food types but, even so, they are often only the basis for a specification.

I suppose “Specification” necessarily includes consideration of items like sampling / analytical methodologies.

Certainly a noble concept. :thumbup:

Rgds / Charles.C


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#3 nuntamd

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 02:11 PM

Hi I recently designed and wrote a web based computer system for a client to track their supplier accreditations and food product specifications. This has proven so popular with the suppliers that we have been asked if we can write a more generalised version for suppliers to use in sending specifications to their customers. (The flip side of the coin).

Whilst I had very specific requirements (specification format) from the original customer, I find myself in unknown waters in attempting to analyse what drives the required and optional content of a food specification.

Whilst we have many years experience of designing systems, our food industry knowledge is limited, so wondered if anyone could help with the following questions:

a) Is it conceivably possible to come up with a generalised food specification template that would satisfy the legislative and commercial requirements of food/ingredient purchasing organisations in Europe and suppliers around the world.

b) Is it possible (or even required) to have variations based on product categories? (ie if it's Sea Food/Tuna must show mercury levels), if so which legislation drives these requirements?

Many thanks in advance...


Hi,
we are specialized in quite same area. We are developing web applications for quality assurance management. One of the touched aspects are the specifications

The only way to generalize the spec, is to create a dynamic Spec Sheet, basically allowing any USER to build its "Spec sheet form", by selecting the components from a "menu".

good luck, and let me know when it is ready so I can recommend it to our customers.

#4 Howard Bell

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:04 PM

Thanks, dynamic templates are not a difficult concept, and one we had already assumed we would need. But dynamic templates rely on the knowledge level of
the person writing the specification. We had hope we could layer some intelligence above that to guide users based on the factors that drive specification contents such as:

a) Legislation (usually based on categorisation)
b) What their customers demand (eg some may demand ethical trading statement to always be present),
c) Value selection (eg 'heavy metals > 10ppm' may drive further questions/requirements such as 'individual heavy metal assay levels'.

Also, unless the data is very prescriptive, as apposed to loose format documents , it becomes impossible to implement any kind of rules processing to indicate (for example) whether is specification is outside legislative or customer driven limits for certain values.

A lot of the thought processes, and a good deal of the code has already been cut. But, I would be most interested in hearing from any organisations (Manufacturing or Customer/Relail) that would be willing to get involved in this product development, the best products are designed by people who use them day to day.



#5 nuntamd

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Posted 09 November 2011 - 05:47 PM

Thanks, dynamic templates are not a difficult concept, and one we had already assumed we would need. But dynamic templates rely on the knowledge level of
the person writing the specification. We had hope we could layer some intelligence above that to guide users based on the factors that drive specification contents such as:

a) Legislation (usually based on categorisation)
b) What their customers demand (eg some may demand ethical trading statement to always be present),
c) Value selection (eg 'heavy metals > 10ppm' may drive further questions/requirements such as 'individual heavy metal assay levels'.

Also, unless the data is very prescriptive, as apposed to loose format documents , it becomes impossible to implement any kind of rules processing to indicate (for example) whether is specification is outside legislative or customer driven limits for certain values.

A lot of the thought processes, and a good deal of the code has already been cut. But, I would be most interested in hearing from any organisations (Manufacturing or Customer/Relail) that would be willing to get involved in this product development, the best products are designed by people who use them day to day.


I cannot speak for Manufacturing or Customer/Retail organizations, but on daily base I use to work as a Quality Assurance Manager for and Importing and Distribution Company, and i use to work with specs on daily base from couple hundred of companies from all across the world.

Believe me, in 90% of time, people working with this type of documents are professionals and know very well their needs.

However, you could try as suggested in another post, to group the products and to get the regulations from countries of your users. But this becomes a BIG job

Anyway ... Good luck.

#6 Antores

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Posted 10 November 2011 - 10:47 PM

Hello Howard,

I think I may be of some help. I work in a fairly large producecompany in USA and we are growers, shippers and distributors to all major supermarkets, distributors and food service companies. But we also do brokerage (buy and sale) so we also have suppliers. With that said, Ineed to keep up with the required compliance documents, both from our suppliersas well as the ones our customers require from us.

As you know, food distribution chains, and especially produce in USA have become very complex, so keeping up with all the required documentshave been a major challenge. Although I’m not an IT or developer, I have some experience with compliance solutions. To start, we did extensive research on products on the market, and also have to work with some web-based solutions as required by our customers.

After looking for the right solution, we didn’t find anyone that fit our needs or budget, so I decided to create my own using SharePoint.Is it probably primitive compare with anything a developer can do, but it isgood enough for what we need

Here is what I can recommend based on my experince as user on this:

· Keep It Simple: I’m not sure if you arelooking for regulations in terms of Documentation or product specifications, but the more granular it is, the less flexible. If you are looking to cover all foods and all countries regulations you are about to tackle something almost impossible. BESIDES, consider that many customer/retailers go beyond legal requirements and make the ones of their own.

· Keep itFlexible: For that reason, instead of limit users to a list of regulations, see what is the common data required on those documents/specifications, and create categories. Forinstance:

- Certifications: What they have in common? Issue date, Expiration date, certifying company, probably a score or rating… etc. Instead of making a list of possible certifications,leave that field open so the user can put the name (e.g. HACCP certification).The best example of this is what “iCiX” does. They have categories of: Certifications –Products – Compliance Documents and Document Logs. Any document or requirementthat a customer/supplier can be placed in one of those categories. If you are not familiarized with www.icix.com I can send you more informationabout it, including the fields they use.

If this is the kind of information you are looking forplease let me know, I’ll be happy to help.


Edited by Antores, 10 November 2011 - 10:51 PM.


#7 Philip.H

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 08:07 PM

Hello,

As mentioned before me what you are trying to create is a really big task.
For me the starting point is legislation. To get an overview of the situation I would suggest a seperation between the food product solution and the food ingredient database since there a lot of difference in law for products going to consumer and B2B. This is also a different type of customer: retailer / manufacturer.
For retail the basic information is all that needs to be on a label. Therefor I refer you to labelling law 1169/2011 on eurlex.

But I guess all client have specific demands.

A few big systems I know are Micros retail solutions, this is big in UK. In the rest of Europe there is Foodscore and Trace One.

Maybe some training could be helpfull. Or there are tons of consultants that would offer their services.

A subject to fill lots of pages thats for sure! Good luck.






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