GS1 US Issues Guideline for Grocery, Foodservice Industries

By RFID Journal

The document was developed to support the increased attention on technology-enabled traceability and smarter food safety.

GS1 US, a not-for-profit standards organization that facilitates industry collaboration to improve supply chain visibility and efficiency, has published a new implementation guideline for the grocery and foodservice industries, advising companies on how extended product data can be captured via Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies. The document, titled "GS1 US EPC Extended Attributes Implementation Guideline for the Food Industry," provides direction for leveraging RFID to track cases and cartons to achieve improved traceability and food safety, and to enable better recall management, freshness management and operational efficiencies.

As GS1 US explains, EPC RFID-based solutions provide inventory visibility without line-of-sight scanning, which can save time and labor costs. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advocating for tech-enabled traceability to improve food safety through the FDA's  New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint," said Angela Fernandez, GS1 US's VP of community engagement, in a prepared statement. "The guideline can help industry leaders extend their investments in GS1 standards through RFID, which will ultimately accelerate data capture, help them adapt to shifting consumer demands and support traceability during this critical moment in food safety."

Tracking cases and cartons with RFID offers benefits related to traceability and operational efficiencies, GS1 US reports. Foodservice and retail grocery industry stakeholder interest in the technology has increased significantly, according to the organization, with particular interest in capturing attribute data in the RFID data carrier for the purpose of recall management, freshness management and operational efficiencies. This enables use cases to be performed without requiring network connectivity or systems integration.

The food industry has been leveraging the GS1-128 barcode on cases and cartons to encode a product's Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and traceability data—its batch, lot, date, serial number and net weight—for years. The new guideline, according to GS1, was developed to operate within existing standards for encoding this product data in an EPC scheme, enabling the digital communication of traceability data via EPC RFID at each point throughout the supply chain. Encoding additional data (batch and lot numbers and dates) into tag memory facilitates such use cases as removing products from a recalled lot or rotating products effectively to ensure freshness.

The guidance document, developed by GS1 US's EPC Extended Attributes Workgroup, applies to stakeholders in the retail, grocery and foodservice industries that utilize GS1 standards and RFID technologies. It provides introductory information that compares various solution approaches, as well as a technical specification for implementing a means of capturing attribute data. The guidance was conceived as part of the organization's  Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, a strategic effort that industry trade associations and companies may join on a voluntary basis to assist with their adoption and implementation of GS1's standards.

Nearly 300,000 businesses throughout 25 industries rely on GS1 US for trading partner collaboration, enabling them to optimize supply chains, drive cost performance and revenue growth, and provide regulatory compliance. Companies can achieve such benefits through solutions based on GS1's global unique numbering and identification systems, barcodes, EPC RFID, data synchronization and electronic information exchange. The organization also manages the U.N. Standard Products and Services Code.