This article, How to Overcome eDiscovery Challenges in Food Manufacturing, appeared in the publication Refrigerated & Frozen Foods. BIA’s Barry Schwartz discusses some of the unique challenges that the food industry faces with regard to eDiscovery, including enormous data volumes, industry rules and regulations, and frequency of litigation.
In today’s digital world, it’s not uncommon for a company to produce gigabytes of electronically stored information (ESI) on a daily basis. So when litigation arises, there’s an ever-growing number of documents to collect, analyze and review for the case. That process is called electronic discovery, or eDiscovery.
Typically, the eDiscovery process involves collecting data from multiple parties, culling that data, advanced analytics, document review, document production and more. The process comes with some unique challenges for the food industry, namely the volume of data, the need to work within industry rules and regulatory requirements, and the high frequency of claims.
Overcome 3 Main eDiscovery Challenges
Below we take a closer look at the three main eDiscovery challenges that companies in food manufacturing industry litigation face and suggestions about how to go about managing them.
1. Large Amounts of Data
The amount of data involved in a case can add up quickly, especially when you consider the number of different places data is stored – email, mobile devices, social media platforms, gaming platforms, computers, servers, cloud-based repositories and more.
To complicate matters, some data might live in a proprietary database or atypical format. In these instances, you may need a tailored solution to review that data in the same format as more traditional files so that you can handle all the data uniformly. This requires advanced planning, the proper technology, and experienced personnel who can oversee the process.
It’s important to first understand what data you have, where it is stored, and who has access to it. This process of “mapping” data can be handled internally or through a third party. It should include a thorough custodian questionnaire (CQ), which can easily be set up and handled through some eDiscovery platforms. In the early stages of a matter, CQs help counsel winnow down a broad custodian list to those most involved or closest to the matter, so they can reveal where any potentially relevant files reside.
Additionally, CQs can enable counsel to do early case analysis and work out a strategy for handling the data and managing the case.
Once you understand where your data lives, the eDiscovery team can help
determine the best platform, or ideally, a tailored combination of tools and platforms, for preserving, collecting, processing, and reviewing data in the most efficient and cost-effective way. The review platform should allow for plug-ins that offer additional functionality, like advanced analytics, including technology-assisted review (TAR), deep analysis, exact and near deduplication, email threading, conversation indexes and robust redaction capability, all of which—if used correctly—will help increase accuracy and decrease costs.
2. Regulatory Requirements
With the number of regulations that the food manufacturing industry face – from an alphabet soup of organizations including OSHA, FDA, USDA, FTC and EPA – it makes sense that many of those requirements relate to a company’s data. For example, companies must keep extensive records to show they have implemented food safety plans and are compliant with guidelines for Hazard and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Further, they’re required to document the monitoring of critical control points, critical limits and verification activities, among other things.
You should establish and implement a document management policy that clearly outlines what data your organization needs to keep, where to store it and for how long, what data to delete, when to delete it, and how to delete it defensibly. This includes data like emails and other communication that should be categorized in a certain way to comply with regulations. It’s important to audit the policy regularly to ensure it remains justifiable
if questioned by regulators or in litigation.
3. Frequent Litigation
Unfortunately, the food manufacturing industry is no stranger to litigation and other legal matters. In recent years, consumers have begun paying more attention to product labeling, advertising, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and consumer fraud, making the food manufacturing and beverage industry a top target for class actions and individual lawsuits. Frequent litigation is costly and time-consuming, especially for companies that lack a proper process for handling eDiscovery.
Wrangle your data beast the right way, and you’ll only have to do it once.
Make eDiscovery a standard business process rather than scrambling every time a new matter arises. For almost 20 years, BIA has been helping companies establish, improve, and polish eDiscovery processes that are perfectly fit to each company’s unique needs and resources. Let our experts help you create a plan that will empower you with the ability to re-use data and institutional knowledge across matters. Imagine the time and money you’ll save when you don’t have to start from scratch every time new litigation pops up.
We’ll help you outline, in a clear and effective manner, your organization’s policies, procedures and best practices for each part of the discovery process. This will ensure every legal matter is handled defensibly, consistently, and correctly.
As a company in the food manufacturing industry faced with litigation, don’t let eDiscovery challenges create unnecessary costs and frustration. Enlist our team of experts to help you overcome eDiscovery challenges by gaining complete visibility into data so that you can manage it effectively, defensibly and securely. With our team, processes, and technology at your disposal, your organization will be well-equipped to handle the discovery process, no matter how often it occurs.
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Read more about how a consistent, repeatable, and defensible eDiscovery process will serve you well.