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The FDA finalized the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Rule 204, and your business must be in full compliance by January 20, 2026. There’s plenty of time before you feel you need to worry about strict compliance. Or is there? Are your barcode labeling and tracking systems truly ready for the changes in traceability? Is your business at the top of the competitor food chain, already managing compliance, or is your business scrambling to catch up before the final deadline?

Man with apron covering eyes

While ensuring full compliance helps to prevent unnecessary fines and the loss of important contracts, getting your barcode labeling and tracking systems ready before the deadline can put you in front of the competition while enhancing food quality and safety.

In this two-part blog series, Imprint addresses what FSMA 204 is, what it means for your barcode labeling system, and how Zebra can help you gain a competitive advantage with your barcoding system and traceability plan.

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FSMA 204 Defined

FSMA Rule 204 establishes the recordkeeping requirements by using a traceability plan of foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL) for food manufacturing, processing, packing, and holding. The FTL includes:

Shipping department receiving bananas
      • Fresh fruits and vegetables
          • Cucumbers, herbs, leafy greens, melons, peppers, sprouts, tomatoes, tropical tree fruits, fresh-cut fruits, fresh-cut vegetables
      • Soft cheeses
          • Fresh soft, soft unripened, soft-ripened, and semi-soft cheeses made from pasteurized milk
          • Cheeses made from unpasteurized milk, other than hard cheese
      • Shell eggs
      • Nut butters
      • Some seafood
          • Fresh, frozen, and refrigerated smoked and unsmoked finfish, fresh and frozen crustaceans, and fresh and frozen molluscan shellfish and bivalves
      • Refrigerated ready-to-eat deli salads

The foods listed in the FTL are required to have additional records maintained by a set of metrics called Key Data Elements (KDEs) that relate to different stages in the supply chain called Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). While the FDA has a resource guide for the KDEs, the specific CTEs are:

      • Harvesting
      • Cooling
      • Initial Packing (Raw Agricultural Commodities)
      • First Land-Based Received (Seafood only)
      • Shipping
      • Receiving
      • Transformation

One item of food could potentially have several key data elements (KTEs) attached to it by the time it is shipped to a customer. What does that mean for your business and your barcode labeling and tracking systems?

How Your Barcode System Helps with FSMA 204 Traceability

1D, or linear, barcodes can only hold approximately 20-25 characters. The more data you need in a 1D barcode, the longer the barcode must be. 2D barcodes can have a higher data density in a smaller space. 2D barcode labels use patterns, shapes, and dots to encrypt as much as 2,000 characters in the same amount of space as a 1D barcode.

1D and 2D printed labels

RFID technology increases operational efficiency, minimizes human error, and can reduce capital costs. RFID provides access to real-time data, using a miniature chip and antenna inlay to a hard, physical tag or is inlaid with a principal label for identification purposes. Using RFID has greater traceability, greater security, and the miniature chip is where data and information are stored. Chip storage ranges in sizes, including 96-bit, 128-bit, and 512-bit.

Barcode labels and RFID tags can only give you so much information. Temperature and humidity labels and cards can help visually indicate which environmental parameters are not maintained, providing real-time insights. Ready-to-use and printable visual indicators are designed for a wide range of environmental excursions using color indicators and are available for different arrays of detecting:

      • Temperature
      • Chemicals
      • Humidity
      • Moisture
      • Bacteria
      • UV Light
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Trusted Help from Zebra Technologies and Imprint Enterprises

Zebra RFID Printer with Tags

Doing the bare minimum for FSMA 204 compliance can leave you susceptible to missing deadlines, losing data, receiving fines, and losing valuable customers. This is where Zebra and Imprint can help.

With the latest in barcode technology, Zebra can provide you with good, better, and best options to help your business step forward with compliance while considering future possibilities and growth. Imprint is a trusted Premiere Solution Partner with Zebra and can help guide you through your options.

Stay tuned for the next blog about how, specifically, Zebra and Imprint can help you get the tools you need that can help your business be the competition.

Contact Imprint Enterprises today to discuss Zebra’s barcode labeling solutions that are best for you.