The Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals, formerly the Dietary Managers Association, comprises mainly foodservice directors, purchasers and other food professionals working in the health care industry, with the majority working in long-term care. As a result, food safety is our No. 1 issue. We decided to get involved with the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative primarily because of our industry’s need for better food-safety protocols. GS1 provides the best solution — an almost foolproof solution — to traceability and allows everyone to track food products up and down the supply chain. It’s kind of a no-brainer for our members, and for the rest of the foodservice industry, especially restaurants, given the sheer volume of food they go through. At the end of the day, if there is a food-safety outbreak, everybody suffers. The whole group needs to be plugged in.
Bar-coding the foodservice industry
When I learned about the initiative, I knew right away our members would want to be part of it to be ahead of the curve. GS1 helps facilitate the adoption of cutting-edge technology and product-identification standards to improve the efficiency and safety of our supply chain. I think back to before there was any bar coding in health care, and now I can’t imagine a world without it. That’s how I view what GS1 is trying to achieve with the foodservice industry.
Benefits to foodservice directors and decision-makers
Again, from a food-safety standpoint, rather than responding to food-safety disasters after the fact, we’ll be able to tackle those issues right away, or even prevent them. The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative is also important for foodservice directors when it comes to working with dietitians and accessing nutritional and allergy information for the many foodservice products on the market.
Working with distributors
When it comes to purchasing, foodservice directors work extensively with distributors. If distributors are using GS1 standards for products, operators and purchasers will be able to communicate better and access better information more quickly. Much of the food-product information out there is convoluted and hard to access, so many operators rely heavily on distributor partners for everything. Our members always complain that they don’t have enough time and want to be able to do more with less. If everyone is using GS1 standards, this will make everyone’s life easier by cutting out unnecessary steps in the supply chain. For the foodservice industry, time is of the essence, but accuracy and quality are important. GS1 gets us one step closer to that goal.
A global approach
Just as there is much crossover between GS1 standards used for years in health care and GS1 standards being adopted by the foodservice industry, there is some crossover with other countries. I started the organization Healthcare Caterers International, and I found that GS1 standards are present in 10 or 12 countries in that group. In fact, Dennis Harrison, senior vice president of GS1 US, will speak at our meeting this fall in Spain.
Bill St. John has served as executive director of the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals for 26 years. The organization changed its name this year from the Dietary Managers Association.