Tag Archives: retail

Michael Link, AFN Logistics
Retail Food Safety Forum

Supply Chain Logistics: 4 Reasons You Need a Retail Strategy

By Michael Link
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Michael Link, AFN Logistics

Attend the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MORERetailers demand peak supply chain performance, and suppliers who fail to provide on-time, accurate deliveries face costly penalties. Further to peak performance, retailers also require a high level of supply chain visibility and transparency to ensure the quality and safety of the food they’re selling. The many moving parts of the supply network require a fine-tuned logistical approach, and a big piece of this is having a retail strategy that optimizes and consolidates your food shipments. This helps suppliers in a myriad of ways, which we’ll delve into here.

Before we do that, let’s set the stage a bit: Compliance programs are the norm within today’s retail supply chain. These programs outline appointment times and delivery standards to ensure quality of goods—among other things—along with the penalties for not meeting the terms. Retailers’ compliance programs vary, but the theme is consistent: Non-compliance results in major costs that add up over time and cause the risk of loss of business.

To gain a competitive advantage, shippers are focusing more on retail consolidation programs that optimize and consolidate shipments while focusing on customer service to help shippers get ahead. These programs can provide complete visibility, enhance control, capture critical business intelligence, create efficiencies, decrease costs, reduce mileage, improve speed to market, and decrease over, short and damage (OS&D) claims—among other benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these:

1. Enhanced Inventory Management

Inventory control is critical in the retail sector. Retailers try to keep their inventories low and have just-in-time deliveries from vendors. This helps to ensure goods are delivered and sold at the highest quality, which, for certain foods like fresh produce or refrigerated items, can often have a narrow window of freshness. At the same time, retailers want to make sure the product they need is going to be available. This is especially the case when seasonal demand for certain food items ebbs-and-flows, such as during the holidays.

As part of a retail optimization program, supply chain service providers can help retailers and suppliers manage inventory by analyzing data and making proactive, rather than reactive, inventory and transportation decisions.

2. Reduced Transit Times

The growth of the omni-channel sector—including in the grocery business—means customers want and expect things at the click of a button, and lead time has a major impact on the cost, quality control and continuity of ordering patterns. In fact, a recent report from Internet Retailer, 2016 Online Food Report, details how the online grocery sector is suddenly a booming market, and is expected to grow by 157% to $42.1 billion this year alone, according to Morgan Stanley.

Proactive communication and continual analysis of transit time data can help suppliers plan and execute an effective transportation strategy as the omni-channel food retail market continues to tick up. Namely, by combining potentially inefficient partial loads into fully utilized truckloads, suppliers can achieve shorter, more predictable transit times. With proper pre-planning, loads can be consolidated, which then allows zone skipping and more direct transportation routes. Zone skipping also reduces the number of times freight is handled, which reduces the risk of damage and errors.

3. Network Optimization

A comprehensive network analysis and optimization effort can drive significant reductions in landed costs while maintaining, or even improving, transit times by considering production, warehousing and inventory needs in addition to transportation. Warehouse location is a critical decision; however, growth projections and potential new markets must be included in forward planning to ensure that today’s appropriate solution does not become tomorrow’s barrier to scalability.

The decision to work with a single national warehouse provider or multiple regional warehouse providers is driven not solely by cost, but also by the consideration of utilizing a single or multiple warehouse management systems. This analysis complements a mode optimization effort, allowing shippers to control costs, ensure product safety and quality and enhance service through the optimum blend of intermodal, truckload and LTL services.

4. Better Visibility and Collaboration

Supply chain performance is critical to controlling costs, improving service, and when it comes to the food supply chain, ensuring quality of perishable goods. According to a survey by ECR McKinsey, successful collaboration on average resulted in a 4.4% decrease in out-of-stocks and a cost reduction of 5.4%.

Collaboration can begin early in the supply chain. Shippers’ supply chain providers can provide an analysis of the entire supply chain and break down the invisible barriers that exist between different divisions within a supplier. Often, suppliers don’t realize they are operating in silos, are unaware of what others within the business may be doing and are unaware of the implications of those actions. They can also become so focused on meeting their immediate goals, they lose sight of the big picture.

Early planning also helps providers offer a custom solution. For food service companies with multiple distribution facilities, retail consolidation becomes an important piece in the supply chain strategy and a critical method for improving profitability.

Implementing an Effective Retail Optimization Program

There are several elements of an effective retail optimization program, including:

  • Increased visibility
  • Network optimization
  • Mode optimization
  • Consolidation
  • Pool pointing

The right retail consolidation programs allow the entire supply network to comply with retailers’ requirements while also increasing visibility, reliability and quality of product. Overall, this creates value for the shipper and their end-customers through improved service. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Listeria in Retail a Complex Challenge

By Maria Fontanazza
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The presence of Listeria monocytogenes in retail establishments can become a persistent problem. While maintaining vigilant and strict cleaning practices is key to reducing the risk, Haley Oliver, Ph.D., associate professor of food science at Purdue University cautions there is no silver bullet for a cleaning strategy, because every store is different. The rate of Listeriosis has not decreased but rather has plateaued, and controlling Listeria is a growing problem, forcing it to be a hot topic at this year’s IAFP conference.

“Attempting to regulate an industry as broad as retail in the United States is a huge challenge,” said Kevin Smith, Ph.D., senior advisor for food safety at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. According to Smith, more than 2200 agencies are responsible for the licensing and inspection of retail facilities. Due to the massive size of the industry, much of the actions surrounding driving compliance and enforcing regulations occur through state, local, and tribal authorities.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) attributed 83% of Listeriosis cases to deli meats that were sliced at a retail counter, (as opposed to meats prepackaged at a facility). Retailers should be using the FSIS guidelines released in June,  “Best Practices Guidance for Controlling Listeria monocytogenes in Retail Delicatessens“, for specific information about how they can ensure the safety of products such as deli meats. Revisions to the guidance include a clarification that food processing equipment should be taken apart during cleaning and sanitizing; an added recommendation that retailers scrub surfaces during cleaning to prevent biofilm formation; and clarification that retailers rotate sanitizers to avoid development of resistance. According to Kristina Barlow of FSIS, these practices can extend beyond deli meats to any products that are prepared at retail.

Learn more about Preventing Listeria Contamination: A Practical Guide to Food Safety Controls

Date: Wednesday, August 5

Time: 2 pm – 3 pm ET

Barlow outlined areas that the Listeria best practices guidelines address, including:

  •  Product handling. “Use products formulated with antimicrobial agents to prevent growth of Lm—96% illnesses could be reduced if retailers used these products,” said Barlow.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing. It is recommended that retailers develop written sanitation procedures outlining the daily frequency in which utensils and equipment should be cleaned and sanitized. Equipment should be cleaned every four hours, and surfaces scrubbed to prevent biofilm formation. Barlow advised that retailers document all actions they perform to ensure that procedures are carried out each day.
  • Facility and equipment controls. Ensure that the floors, walls and overhead structures are clean. Listeria that is harbored in drains is more likely to creep its way into equipment, and the bacteria can also hide under dust and floors, so it is important to avoid construction when food products are exposed.
  • Employee practices. Use gloves, train in sanitation practices, and make sure that information is available to employees in multiple ways (i.e., other languages and use of images). In addition, implement policies to ensure that ill employees are not working with food; and limit employee traffic in the deli area—develop traffic flow plans for product, employees and other items to prevent contamination by both consumers and employees. Finally, employees should change aprons or other frocks when soiled. “Gone are the days when the butcher is covered in blood [and] serving people,” said Barlow.

Compliance Deadline for ObamaCare’s Menu Labeling Rule Extended One Year

By Maria Fontanazza
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FDA gives establishments another year to comply with the controversial rule.

Whether it was Congressional pressure or the heat felt from large retail businesses and industry associations, FDA decided to extend the date for compliance with the menu labeling rule by one year. The final rule, “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments”, was published on December 1, 2014 with the effective compliance date originally set for December 1, 2015. As announced in a Federal Register notice last week, covered establishments now have until December 2016 to make sure they comply with the requirements.

“The FDA agrees additional time is necessary for the agency to provide further clarifying guidance to help facilitate efficient compliance across all covered businesses and for covered establishments to come into compliance with the final rule,” said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in an FDA notice.

“The final rule requirements are intended to ensure that consumers are provided accurate, clear, and consistent nutrition information for foods sold in covered establishments in a direct and accessible manner to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices.” Source: Federal Register

“Covered establishments” are restaurants or similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain and have 20 more locations that conduct business under the same name and offer the same menu items. This can include individual franchises. 

Since February, FDA has received four requests for an extension of the final rule’s compliance date. These concerns, which were submitted by a large retailer and industry associations, stated that there wasn’t enough time to fully implement requirements. The requests also detailed the extensive steps involved in compliance, which include:

  • Developing software and information systems that provide nutritional information
  • Training staff
  • Rolling out standard operating procedures
  • Developing and installing updated and consistent menus (across retail chain operations)

FDA plans to issue a draft guidance next month that will answer questions it has received about complying with the rule. The agency will also offer educational and technical help to businesses covered under the rule and will work with state, local and regulatory partners to support nationwide compliance.

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

World Health Day Shines Spotlight on Food Safety

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

Drawing attention to the fierce urgency to advance overall food safety and reduce the devastating impact of food borne illnesses around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) dedicated the 2015 World Health Day to Food Safety. To support these efforts, the Laureate International Universities hosted a special webinar as part of its annual activities to mark World Health Day. During the webinar, Constance Shumba, a public health faculty at the University of Roehampton (London) and I explored the potential impact of FSMA on the global food supply with a case study on how the people and government of Uganda are advancing food safety in the sub-Saharan African country.

Globally, more than 2.2 million people, most of whom are children, die of foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases annually. In the United States alone, the CDC estimates that 48 million people become ill from food borne diseases each year. About 128,000 of these individuals are hospitalized, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. The overall annual U.S. economic burden due to food borne illnesses is estimated to cost $77.7 billion.

These grim statistics illustrate the necessity to overhaul the outdated U.S. food safety system. FSMA is the most significant statutory change to both human and animal food safety in more than 70 years (since the passage of the Food Safety & Cosmetic Act of 1938). It is a radical shift from FDA’s previously reactive approach to a more robust, proactive scientific and risk-based prevention-oriented system. When fully implemented in 2016, the most important impact of FSMA will be to ensure that contaminated foods as well as those containing unwholesome or adulterated ingredients never reach retailers and consumers. Interestingly, FSMA may also positively affect the global food supply chain as it drives the improvement of food safety practices around the world, especially in countries that export food and food products to the United States.

Several provisions of FSMA will affect food exporters to the United States both in terms of reshaping their local food safety policies to align with the new law and the resulting improvement in food safety practices. Some of the areas of potential impact include:

  • Foreign Supplier Verification Program
  • Effective Traceability and Recall Program
  • Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Control (HARPC) System
  • Documentation and Record Keeping Inspections
  • Sanitary Transportation Rule for Human and Animal Foods
  • Produce Safety Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.

Notably, regulatory agencies of major U.S. trading partners are in the process of updating their food safety laws to ensure that local food productions remain in compliance with FSMA. Canada, Mexico, China and Australia are among the countries that are proactively working with their U.S. counterparts to ensure compliance and uninterrupted food exports to U.S. markets. Overall, it will be easier for developed economies with fairly robust food safety regulatory policies to upgrade and catch up with the new FSMA requirements.

Developing nations will be the hardest hit, as an extensive overhaul may be required to meet FSMA regulations. In the face of poor infrastructures, these countries may struggle when upgrading their systems to achieve compliance and maintain a certain level of trade relations with the United States, not just in raw materials or unprocessed food and food products, but also in valued-added food exports. Despite these challenges, these countries are motivated to remain trusted U.S. food-trading partners and will most likely improve their food safety policies and practices, thus helping to make the global food supply safer.

Uganda is an example of a developing country that is making serious efforts to improve its food safety policies and programs. The country is working on its Food and Drug Act of 1964 and its subsequent Drug Act of 1993 to develop a modern and unified National Food Safety Law. To make the global food supply safer through FSMA, the United States must collaborate with its trading partners around the world in building and upgrading their food safety systems. This would be beneficial to U.S. companies doing business in foreign countries either in terms of manufacturing their own private food labels or simply in assisting local industries in these countries in growing, processing and packaging food and food products destined for the U.S. market. It would also help these countries upgrade their food safety laws, improve export capabilities, and balance trade with the United States, consequently making food safer for their own citizens.

During the webinar we also emphasized the need to focus on the family kitchen in improving food safety practices around the world, using the five WHO key principles to a safer quality food:

  • Keep clean—engage in proper washing of hands and food contact surfaces
  • Cook food thoroughly to the required temperatures
  • Separate raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods to avoid cross-contamination
  • Keep food at safe temperatures to ensure that hot food remains hot and cold food remains cold at all times
  • Use safe water and raw materials to avoid cross-contamination

We all agreed that the culture of food safety must start in the home and at a very early stage in life and from there, spread to our schools, and public and private institutions. Food companies must do all that is necessary to uphold the integrity of the highly profitable food industry by delivering safe quality food to their customers. Overall, the global food supply chain will be made safer with a considerable reduction in food borne illnesses, and chemical or physical adulteration of foods.

The webinar referenced in this column, “From Farm to Fork – A Public Health Perspective”, can be found on the Walden University (Minneapolis) website.

Okenu is also affiliated with Walden University as a contributing professor in public health

Four Large Retailers Asked to Stop Selling ‘Mislabeled’ Herbal Supplements

The New York Attorney General’s office has ordered Walmart, Target, Walgreens and GNC to stop selling “mislabeled” herbal supplements, after independent lab tests of these supplements have revealed that they do not contain ingredients as stated on the labels.

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has sent cease-and-desist letters to all four companies demanding that they stop selling their store-brand herbal supplements because DNA barcoding showed that 79 percent of them either didn’t contain the stated ingredient(s), or were contaminated by other filler materials such as rice and wheat to which some people might be allergic. The companies have been asked to respond by February 9, with information about how their store-brand supplements are processed, according to a NY Times report.

“The topic of purity (or lack thereof) in popular herbal dietary supplements has raised serious public health and safety concerns, and also caused this office to take steps to independently assess the validity of industry and advertising,” the letters stated, adding that “Contamination, substitution and falsely labeling herbal products constitute deceptive business practices and, more importantly, present considerable health risks for consumers.”

Tests were done at the request of the New York AG’s office on the following store-brand supplements: Ginkgo Biloba, St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Echinacea, Valerian Root, Garlic and Saw Palmetto. Three to four samples of each supplement purchased in different parts of the state were tested. Each sample was tested five times, for a total of 390 tests on 78 samples.

Only 4 percent of Walmart’s supplements (“Spring Valley” brand) actually contained the ingredients listed on the label, while 18 percent did at Walgreens (“Finest Nutrition” brand), 22 percent at GNC (“Herbal Plus” brand), and 41 percent at Target stores (“Up & Up” brand). Only the GNC garlic consistently tested as advertised, according to the AG’s office.

A Walmart spokesperson has said that the retailer is immediately reaching out to the suppliers of these products to learn more information and will take appropriate action. Walgreens agreed to remove the products from its stores across the country, even though only New York was requiring it to do so. GNC confirmed that the products in question had been removed from its store shelves.

Creighton R. Magid is a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney and head of its Washington DC office, supported Attorney General Schneiderman’s actions and described that “he is taking aim at these herbal supplements not by attacking their efficacy or health risk, which would be more difficult to prove, but by alleging false labeling – something that can presumably be proved with a lab test to establish the actual ingredients.”

“Unless the manufacturers or retailers can show that the ingredients of these products are as shown on the labels – and not merely powdered versions of a junior high lunch – these products will probably start disappearing from store shelves rather quickly,” Magid added.

Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B
Retail Food Safety Forum

Combating Norovirus Hazards in Retail Foodservice

By Dan Okenu, Ph.D.
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Dan Okenu, Ph.D., Food Safety Manager, H-E-B

Norovirus is the number one cause of foodborne disease outbreaks worldwide. It makes people sick causing nausea, stomach cramping, vomiting and diarrhea or “stomach flu” and leads to a lot of discomfort and even death, especially in vulnerable populations like children and the elderly. Elevated risk of infection is associated with certain foods that are served raw, like fruits and vegetables, contaminated ready-to-eat (RTE) foods, or improperly cooked Oysters from contaminated waters. According to the CDC, Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated foods in the United States, especially in retail foodservice settings like restaurants.

Some of the potential sources of Norovirus outbreaks in retail foodservice are as follows:

  • Infected food handlers
  • Infected non-food workers and guests
  • Bare hands contact with RTE foods
  • Contamination of food deliveries at source
  • Improper cleaning and disposal of body fluids
  • Training gap on sanitizer and disinfectant use
  • Aerosolized vomitus around food and people
  • Contaminated food contact and non-food contact surfaces
  • Improper hand washing by food handlers
  • Cross contamination from restrooms
  • Cross contamination from high touch points in the back of the house

It is apparent from the statistics that Norovirus constitutes a major hazard to the retail foodservice industry. The good news, however, is that there are a lot of cost-effective strategies that can be implemented in a proactive manner to reduce its spread and impact on businesses, protect customers and the bottom line. Some of these preventive measures will be discussed here and in next week’s blog post.Norovirus_thumb

Proper Hand Washing by Foodservice Workers

Proper hand washing is the most cost-effective method for preventing cross-contaminations including Norovirus in a retail foodservice environment. Hand wash sinks should be appropriately located to encourage compliance by both foodservice workers and guests. For example; the food code requires handling dry clean dishes with clean hands during the dish washing process. Thus, it makes a lot sense to install a hand wash sink in close proximity to an automated dishwasher. This will enhance hand washing compliance by Team Members before handling and stacking dry clean dishes. Adequate soap and hand sanitizers should be provided at all hand washing stations including restrooms. Whereas the use of hand sanitizers is not a replacement for proper hand washing with soap, there is evidence that hand sanitizers are effective against Norovirus. Proper hand washing remains the preferred option however, since the use of soap can indeed get rid of other cross contaminating organic matter and dirt. Incentive programs may be used to encourage frequent and proper hand washing by foodservice workers. More resources may be found at handwashingforlife.com to help foodservice establishments update their hand washing culture.

While enforcing proper hand washing among foodservice employees is desirable, it is also advisable to encourage hand washing among guests. Norovirus can be transmitted by infected guests to the foodservice establishment especially in buffet style restaurants where guests come in very close proximity with RTE foods. Facility design that encourages hand washing by guests was elegantly captured by the Florida based PDQ restaurant chain that installed a hand wash sink in their main dining room with a strong brand statement that “quality and clean go hand in hand”. The strategic location of a hand wash sink encourages hand washing by guests, especially among children in the full view of their parents, and with less cross contaminating contact surfaces as found in the restrooms.

Restroom Cleaning and Sanitation

Color coded cleaning and sanitizing tools are recommended for restrooms to prevent cross contamination. Tools will be dedicated for use in restrooms only and stored in a dedicated storage or closet to avoid accidental use in other areas of the foodservice establishment. The restroom can be the most important part of the restaurant with opportunities to prevent infections. Guests may also use the cleanliness of the restroom as a measure of food safety commitment by the retail food establishment (see my previous blog on “Clean Matters”). Thus, extra efforts are required to maintain and keep restrooms in a clean and sanitary condition all the time. Use of disinfectant grade chemicals for disinfecting restrooms, body fluids clean-up and high touch point areas is recommended. The alternative of preparing high concentration sanitizers is laborious and prone to mistakes by foodservice workers. In addition, such high concentrated sanitizers like 1000 – 5000 ppm chlorine-based sanitizer can be a safety concern to employees when used without PPEs. Frequent cleaning, disinfecting and replenishing of hand soap and sanitizers in the restroom are effective measures against restroom infections and cross contaminations including Norovirus.

Stay tuned for more preventative measures to be discussed in next week’s blog post…