Roadblocks to Confidently Facing FSMA 204


Among the myriad commodities and subsections of the food industry facing FSMA 204 compliance, tropical fruit distributors have a unique set of challenges and needs. Keeping tabs on documentation and supplier data is difficult enough with a handful of suppliers, but most tropical fruit distributors work with hundreds if not thousands of small growers. With the data needs (and associated organizational challenges) thus increasing exponentially, FSMA 204 compliance needs to be approached strategically.



Smart Tactics for Modern Problems


Minimize Integrations

While GFSI scheme compliance is often as fundamental as gathering certificates from suppliers once a year, FSMA is changing the game. Tropical fruit distributors must capture every granular piece of data along the way. This poses new challenges that call for a concise approach. 

The Silent Killer: Missing Data

At scale, Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) can’t be requested, received, and uploaded manually. Supplier data must flow into the distributor’s central software automatically; this requires API integrations to connect software platforms. But each integration to supplier software carries a cost for the distributor to analyze, map, and build the data connections. And each connection requires ongoing maintenance as software continually evolves. The more maintenance is required, the more likely it is that some data goes missing. 

The Daily Burden: Varying Data

Each FSMA software will structure and describe data differently. The more software options allowed among suppliers, the more traceability breaks down due to differing formats, schemes, names, and identifiers. Tropical fruit distributors risk having – but not finding – their Key Data Elements (KDEs). 

The Proven Way: Approved Software Vendors

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Faced with having to manage tens of thousands of CTEs, tropical fruit distributors simply can’t operate in a DIY environment. The only realistic solution going forward is to limit the FSMA software vendor choices that suppliers have. By reducing the number of approved software vendors to a maximum of five, tropical fruit distributors can more efficiently manage their data risk and support burden while making it easier for their suppliers to comply.
Joan Rosen
Former Director of Global Food Safety, Chiquita Brands


Five or Fewer Integrations: The Benefits

For Tropical Fruit Distributors
  • Reduced cost to build and maintain API connections
  • Reduced risk of missing and varying data
  • Reduced challenge to communicate requirements and deliver support


For Small Suppliers
  • Reduced cost of FSMA software due to the network’s centralized buying power
  • Reduced analysis and change management with a ready-made solution


Prioritize Accessibility

Latin American operations face additional obstacles to implement the newest technologies and tools. Managing limited digital infrastructure and literacy, tropical fruit distributors must choose their approved FSMA software carefully. 

Mobile-First: Adapting to Constraints

According to the World Economic Forum, less than 50% of Latin Americans have access to fixed broadband. The good news? 87% are in range of a 4G mobile internet connection. However, many of America’s software options are built for desktop, being too clunky and overbearing to use on a mobile phone. When considering FSMA 204 software, tropical fruit distributors must approve vendors that are mobile-first.

Meet You Where You Are: Digital Literacy

The World Economic Forum has also highlighted that only 5-15% of adults have medium or strong digital problem-solving skills in Latin America. Advanced compliance software may be a paralyzing problem. However, GSMA reporting shows that 86% of Latin Americans use SMS texts, web-browsing, and pictures on their devices. To succeed in tropical fruit, FSMA 204 software must be equally simple. 

The Proven Way: FSMA in a Text

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Enable tropical fruit suppliers to rely on tablets or employee smartphones. FSMA software must be accessible on all makes, models, and sizes of personal devices. To facilitate compliance, CTE record-keeping must be no more complicated than texting in a web browser.
Joaquin Nava
CEO of Grupo Delcen, Mexico’s largest food safety services provider


Intuitive & Mobile-First: The Benefits

For Tropical Fruit Distributors

  • Reduced complexity of training and support programs
  • Minimized risk of failure in supplier adoption


For Small Suppliers

  • No required hardware costs
  • Achievable learning curve


Boots on the Ground

Digital data capture is a people challenge inasmuch as a software challenge. If a dynamic tool from Silicon Valley is dropped in an inbox in Sinaloa, will that work? Likely not. But tropical fruit distributors shouldn’t plan to support hundreds to thousands of small suppliers themselves. Localizing the tools becomes a critical piece of the puzzle. 

¿Lo entiendes?

Are your small suppliers forced to memorize the meaning of English words in their CTE records? Too many software options are locked in one language, prompting guesswork that hinders data quality. Other software attempts to replace natural language with unintuitive codes; in practice, this memorization is actually harder, and hinders adoption. Tropical fruit suppliers need easily-localized language options in FSMA 204 software. 

Beyond Training Day: Continuous Support

Field operations tend to have regular turnover, so small suppliers need year-round training to ensure continuous adoption of FSMA software. Tropical fruit distributors can’t solely rely on new operators finding past webinars or help sites; however, tropical fruit distributors also can’t carry staff to provide ongoing personal support. It’s critical for these services to be bundled with the FSMA software. Support must be sensitive to the culture, the conditions, the language, and the timezone.  

The Proven Way: Localization & Support

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With English, Spanish, and Portuguese prevalent across the tropical fruit supply chain, CTE records must live-translate data without jeopardizing traceability. We recommend the SQF community to look for software that enables natural language input from small suppliers – in any language – and converts that data into scalable identifiers for distributors.
Luis Alberto Cruz García
SQF, the GFSI standard aligned to FSMA 204 requirements
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When internationalizing your data, don’t overlook the importance of local touch. Software is the constant and humans are the variable. Ask, does the FSMA software provider have more than two staff in each required language and timezone, to ensure full-time availability of help resources?
Juliana Salon
DNV Supply Chain Services, Central and South America


International Support: The Benefits

For Tropical Fruit Distributors
  • Third-party support will limit distractions for food safety staff 
  • Localized guidance will mitigate the risk of poor adoption and supplier non-conformance
For Small Suppliers
  • Complementary setup services mean that no time is required for software configuration
  • Local support makes for easy training and trouble-shooting


Getting in Action

It’s rare for one company to be best-in-class at intuitive mobile data capture, scalable data integrations, and international support services. Tropical fruit distributors would be wise to take a best-in-breed approach, combining the ideal offering for each of the three challenges.

FDA Traceability Challenge winner, Kezzler, has teamed up with Provision and DNV for this very purpose. 


Provision is an intuitive, mobile-first tool for capturing compliance documentation. The average small supplier is audit-ready in 54% less time than their prior method. 


Kezzler allows tropical fruit distributors to structure and unify disparate data from a network of small suppliers. It integrates to any number of Provision accounts. 


With 15,000 staff spanning 100 countries, DNV can assure the human element of FSMA 204 compliance. Its services guide the implementation and support of the Provision-Kezzler solution.


In Conclusion

The stress of achieving FSMA 204 compliance is understandable. Tropical fruit distributors can mitigate their risk by approving one to five FSMA software options for their supplier networks. Prioritizing simplicity and localization, tropical fruit distributors can navigate compliance throughout their supplier networks, while ensuring the safety and quality of their products.