FoodLogiQ has announced the launch of its API as a Service offering within the company’s Connect platform. Companies can use the platform to centralize IoT and blockchain data.
“By connecting the data our customers are gathering in FoodLogiQ with other platforms serving the food industry, our customers will achieve supply chain visibility unlike any other in the industry,” said Dean Wiltse, CEO of FoodLogiQ in a press release. “Whether it is a consumer-facing loyalty app, temperature monitoring sensors, inventory management platforms or grocery delivery services, the food industry requires a centralized technology platform to connect these many complex data sources and reduce redundancies through integrations.”
One stringent component of FSMA and the Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food is record keeping. Depending on the type and size of business, the FDA can demand proof of record anywhere from under one year and upwards to two years, all while needing to address their inquiry within 24 hours. Failure to do so will be considered a “prohibited act” and violators can be tried for civil and criminal penalties.
This new rule, put in place by the FDA, will put immense pressure on the food transportation industry, not only to make food safety a priority, but also to ensure that proper food safety practices and measures are being properly implemented, by way of record keeping.
While the litany of rules and regulations pertaining to record keeping best practices is intense, let us break down the basic requirements applying to records in layman’s terms:
If HACCP procedures aren’t documented, it didn’t happen
Records must be verbatim accounts of what happened
The need for real-time recording is paramount
Corrective actions must be executed immediately if an issue occurs
If not, liability risk increases exponentially
Companies must determine the most efficient and plausible manner by which they will comply. Traditional storage of records in filing cabinets and input of data in spreadsheets is antiquated, and leads to errors and the potential for misplaced records. Now, more than ever, is the time for businesses along the food chain to deliver value to their organization via digital technologies and automated data gathering solutions. This will ensure constant visibility and ensure quality control throughout the process from farm to fork.
Where Does Waste Happen?
While covering a lettuce farm in central California, National Geographic discovered that numerous loads were dumped each day due to procedural mistakes , including improperly filled, labeled and sealed containers.1 Due to the mishaps, the loads were then dumped. Between April and November that year, the local Waste Authority landfilled 4–8 million pounds of fresh vegetables from those fields.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that:
54% of world food waste occurs during production, handling and storage
46% occurs during processing & distribution
These numbers are not only staggering, but they illustrate the seriousness of this issue.
Many of these mishaps occur when standard recording procedures are done manually, which leads to improper documentation that invalidates the integrity of shipments—to which the above figures illustrate and corroborate.
But can shippers, loaders, receivers and the like secure their procedures and eliminate wasted product by implementing stricter digital HACCP solutions?
While improper execution of best practices can lead to FDA imposed sanctions and profit loss, it also perpetuates the problem of food waste globally. This issue has become an epidemic and one that greatly affects the lives of many.
In a recent National Geographic article, The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests the following:1
One-third of food produced for global human consumption is annually lost or wasted along the supply chain
Food waste equates to 2.8 trillion pounds each year, which is enough to feed 3 billion people per year
Consider this: The World Food Programme estimates that nearly 795 million people in the world do not have access to the proper amount of food needed to live a healthy, active life, which equates to roughly one in nine people on earth.
The amount of waste created along the supply chain each year is enough to feed the hungry and malnourished people of the world three-times over. While waste is inevitable, even a 50% improvement would be able to feed those most in need.
We understand the nature of business is overcoming competition while expending the least capital possible, ultimately leading to profit. However, food-related businesses along the supply chain must ask themselves whether or not they are their own competition. Are best practices being properly executed? How can they ensure this in order to mitigate waste?
Ultimately, however, it becomes a human issue. Companies must be responsible and possess the empathy to understand this. While domestically we may not feel the effects of global hunger as much as other third-world countries, these businesses must be aware of the epidemic in order to elucidate this topic while simultaneously maximizing its businesses potential.
By leveraging new food safety solutions such as mobile devices, the cloud, IoT, sensors and more, you can better protect your customers while also gaining a tangible ROI. Wherever consumers purchase and shop for food today, they are likely to find a larger selection than ever before. From the bread aisle to the cheese counter to the produce section, food options and manufacturing processes today are more diverse than ever. While variety is positive on a consumer and cultural level, it can create challenges for food safety from farm to fork.
Many foods, from honey to olive oil to spices, fall victim to fraudsters each year. Often a time-consuming process, conducting research about each product or ingredient can involve combing through many websites and databases for information. To save companies from doing all that heavy lifting, newer tools are aggregating the data into single platforms. One most recent example is the World Factbook of Food, developed by the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI) and funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The tool was released earlier this year, and Erin Mann, project manager at FPDI, explains how it is helping food companies mitigate the risk of food fraud in their supply chain.
Food Safety Tech: What are the fundamental advantages of using the World Factbook of Food and how is it different from other tools that companies can use to assess their risk?
Erin Mann: The World Factbook of Food is a central reference location for data related for food. It pulls together a lot of high quality data points from a lot of different sources into a single tool.
Companies can look for information on a lot of different food products and a lot of different sourcing regions and countries. We have more than 125 food profiles (and growing) and more than 75 country profiles (also growing). [There are 10 food profiles and 10 country profiles that are available for free] Each of the profiles covers a large number of topics. On the food profile side, there are data points on how the product is used, codes, information about standards and grades; and a lot of data about trends and consumption, production and trade patterns; there’s information about processing and supply chain characteristics; and another section about food defense and food safety.
It’s a resource that can be used anytime a company needs to get up to speed quickly on a product, because it covers a lot of different types of risks. If a company wanted access to information related to risk about past economically motivated adulteration (EMA) or intentional adulteration (IA) incidents, the Factbook has that. There’s also data on past recalls, information about major producing countries around the world—a wealth of information in one place that companies can use broadly for risk assessment—basically any use case where they want access to a lot of information from lots of sources, the Factbook can be a great place for that.
FST: Can you expand on the food defense component of the Factbook?
Mann: One of the primary sources that we pull for the food defense section comes from a complementary tool that we use here at FPDI—our food adulteration incidence registry, called the FAIR tool, which is a database of past EMA and IA incidents. On the technology side, the Factbook is directly linked with the FAIR tool. If you’re looking at a profile for a particular product, it will access the FAIR tool and display relevant incidents for that product. It won’t give you access to the entire FAIR database, but it will give you a high-level summary of what food defense incidents have happened in the past with the product, where they happened, the year and a summary.
What we’ve seen with the FAIR tool is high incidents of food adulteration in products like oils, spices, seafood—those are the major products impacted by food adulteration, particularly EMA.
FST: From what sources are the data curated?
Mann: There’s a source list at the bottom of each profile and all the data points are referenced throughout. In terms of a high-level description of where we pull data from, it includes the USDA, FDA, Codex, the U.S. International Trade commission, United Nations data, and other industry and trade groups. It also pulls data from the World Bank and the FAIR tool.
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FST: How can companies use the Factbook as part of their overall risk mitigation process?
Mann: One of primary strengths of the Factbook is that companies can use it in many different ways. Our institute has done a lot of work with big data and using multiple data sources, and one of the biggest takeaways we learned through several years in this field is that whenever you use big data or you use lots of data sources, they must produce intelligence and information that is actionable. All of the data and information doesn’t do much good if there’s not a clear summary of what to do with that information.
The Factbook aims to do that. It’s a collection and synthesis of data and clean information that’s in an easy to use and easy to navigate user interface. From there, companies can take a look and see how to use the Factbook where they see a gap in their processes. It’s a great place to access lots of information about a food product in a single place. If we can see several points in an overall risk mitigation process where the Factbook can be used, it could be used to inform decisions related to procurement. [For example], if a company suddenly needed to procure a product from a new source region or if they were developing a new product and had to procure an ingredient that they hadn’t worked with before, the Factbook would be a great place to get smart quickly on that ingredient.
The Factbook could be used for understanding supplier review and specific risks related to that ingredient, or simply horizon scanning—if companies want to take a look at some of the products they’ve determined to be high risk and learn more about the product from a holistic perspective.
As stated in the Q&A, 10 food profiles and 10 country profiles are available for free. Subscribers to the World Factbook of Food pay $600 annually for full access to the tool, and bundled pricing is available for users who are interested in access to both the Factbook and the FAIR tool.
Food defense is the protection of food products from intentional contamination or adulteration, as well as biological, chemical, physical or radiological agents. It addresses additional concerns including physical, personnel and operational security. A traditional food defense program is generally perceived as a program that includes site security, visitors control or even on-site personnel monitoring. However, with the new FSMA Preventive Controls Rules and GFSI Guidance for all the recognized schemes, additional to consumer demand on product transparency, we must now take food fraud into consideration within our food defense program.
What is food fraud? According to the study from Michigan State University, food fraud is a collective term used to encompass the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients or food packaging, or false misleading statements made about a product, for economic gain. It becomes not just a potential for food safety issues, but also a severe issue that could potentially damage your brand reputation. It is hence critical to have appropriate protection and prevention, as the umbrella encompasses both food defense and food safety.
What does this mean to food manufacturers? The awareness of traceability and transparency certainly should rise. Most facilities should have a food defense program in place to comply with any GMP or GFSI requirements. To make it more competent for food fraud, what could we do? Here are some quick tips to strengthen your food defense program with food fraud prevention:
Tip 1: Review your entire supply chain one more time, considering fraud risks
Tip 2: Use the HACCP concept for food fraud risk analysis
Tip 3: Double-check incoming goods
Tip 4: Make the entire supply chain transparent
Tip 5: Document all records
Tip 1: Review your entire supply chain one more time, considering fraud risks
The unknown could potentially hurt you or your program. You would prefer to be aware of what might go wrong before it goes wrong, which is why a review should be one of the key steps in your food safety program. It might be a familiar terminology in the industry; however, we could not eliminate its importance to your entire food safety management system. To maintain product authenticity, understanding where your ingredients come from and who your business partners and suppliers are become the first step to success. It also gives you an excellent opportunity to analyze the risks and potential risk sources. A thorough review should include all the approved suppliers and vendor information. Knowing the source of your product provides you with a good foundation for your food defense program. How can we efficiently review our own supply chain?
List all approved suppliers and contract vendors
Make sure all ingredients are used accordingly and as intended
Keep the supplier registration list up to date
The more you understand your own supply chain, the more helpful it will be to your food defense program.
Tip 2: Use HACCP concept for food fraud risk analysis within supply chain
Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), as defined by FDA, is a management system in which food safety is ensured by addressing through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards throughout the entire supply chain. This mentality of HACCP could be used and very helpful to analyze the potential fraud risks. Its seven principles and 12 steps could be implemented to identify your own fraud risks. And it is important for us to identify the hazards from potentially adulterated ingredients to determine the next step for what needs to be controlled. Utilizing the 12 steps, we can list all the key points and steps that could potentially impact your products’ authenticity. The risks can come from personnel, visitors or the ingredients themselves. There are many resources out there; for example, US Pharmacopeia (USP) has developed a global food fraud database that is a good resource for all ingredients that have been falsely used in food products.
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Tip 3: Double-check incoming goods
Many articles address the importance of vulnerability assessments to prevent food fraud plus any documentation your suppliers have provided. Yes, it is critical; however, as one of the important steps in the HACCP program, verification is also important to make sure what goes into your finished products is safe and guaranteed. This could be addressed and monitored by implementing genetic testing. Each product and ingredient has its own DNA, just like our fingerprints. Nowadays, there are many methodologies developed for this type of test. The DNA testing could be a helpful tool to help your facility verify the authenticity of your incoming raw materials. Genetic testing using techniques like polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology to detect the DNA of the product upon receiving the incoming goods. Moreover, as fast as it can be, facilities can now receive the test results within one to two hours. The testing itself might seem like an extra step with more effort and labor. However, the return is a huge saving on damages caused by food fraud. You can now start to verify and control your supply chain from the beginning to avoid any potential adulteration.
Tip 4: Make the entire supply chain transparent
This transparency not only applies to internal employees but also outward to your customers and vendors. That way you can familiarize yourself with your own supply chain, while at the same time establish brand reputation and confidence to your customers.
Tip 5: Keep all records documented
The records you should keep, besides a registration list of all your ingredients and vendors, should include the inventory list, how ingredients are used, whether it is used outside of its intended use and authorized personnel signatures. The following are some tips for an efficient document control:
Make it clear and straightforward
Categorize it based on your own facility operations
Keep the records in the same order of your supply chain from ingredients to end consumers
After all, with the newly released requirements, as QA professionals, we need to start developing a mindset that considers food fraud as a type of hazard, and develop monitor and control strategies for mitigating it. Just like we are now so familiar with the physical, chemical and biological hazards within our production facilities compared to decades ago, food fraud will no longer be a scary term once it is proficiently understood and properly controlled.
As the applications of connected devices continues to drive innovation and create exciting possibilities throughout the food processing industry, the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on pest management in the food supply chain is already easy to recognize. An ecosystem of connected devices streamlines several processes that are integral to an effective integrated pest management plan, providing convenience and saving time for both food manufacturers and their pest management partners. From creating a smart network of devices that detect changes and track movement in the pest population to seamless reporting procedures that cut down on paperwork, we’re already seeing the benefits of a more connected world on a very important aspect of food safety.
Judy Black will host a free webinar, along with her colleague Jeff Robbins, director of commercial pest marketing, on the applications of IoT in pest management throughout the food supply chain on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. Register hereAt the ground level—often quite literally—we have networked traps for pests ranging from stored product insects to rodents. Each trap tracks the pests it captures and reports its readings to a central hub in real time, providing an instant snapshot of changes in the pest population and triggering notifications when that population exceeds pre-set parameters—well before the pests create an issue. Beyond knowing when a pest population increases in a facility, this network of connected monitoring devices can pinpoint where those pests are congregating, allowing the facility’s pest management partner to identify and eliminate the source of the issue quickly.
Beyond those devices on the front lines, the IoT also has a major impact on the behind-the-scenes management of pest management processes. With the increase in reporting requirements brought on by the adoption of FSMA earlier in the decade came a lot of new paperwork for food manufacturers. On the pest management front, the paper trail required to track the steps taken to reduce the risk of pest infestation represents a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of facility managers. Working with a pest management partner that understands the opportunities connected devices provide means less paperwork; a centralized online hub allows facility managers to review their partner’s recommendations, indicate the steps they’ve taken to address issues and close the loop without having to touch a file cabinet.
The availability of this pest-tracking data allows forward-thinking pest management companies to be more efficient and better informed. By compiling and analyzing this data, they can identify regional trends in pest populations, allowing them to be better prepared to recognize and resolve pest issues early and to stay ahead of cyclical fluctuations in the pest population.
We often talk about technology in terms of the impact it will have in the future, but in the pest management business, we’re already seeing the benefits of a connected ecosystem of devices. While the technology will continue to evolve and improve, it’s important for food manufacturers to recognize the benefits of working with a pest management partner that embraces the IoT. By streamlining and centralizing the processes of monitoring and reporting on pest management practices, this technology saves time and reduces the risks pests pose throughout the food supply chain.
Big data has become a fairly common term used across industries. It refers to large, complex volumes of data that are generated from multiple sources. The challenge may not be so much in gathering the data but more so in what to do with the information. Although it can be a bear to manage, if able to harness data correctly, food companies could have a leg up on their competition.
“The food industry is behind. As an example, the aerospace industry has the ability to monitor engines on a transatlantic flight to ensure they are operating at the optimal conditions. This data is being used by engineers within different organizations to make improvements,” says Kathy Wybourn, director of food & beverage, USA & Canada at DNV-GL. “Just having the ability to collect information in real time will shift the industry from reactive to proactive. This will require the industry to fit the pieces together to collect information. As an example, you could reject a product at the supplier site, even before it leaves the supplier—you would have all that information at the tips of your fingers.” In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Wybourn discusses how the food industry can benefit from the proper use of big data.
Food Safety Tech: What does the term “big data” mean to the food industry?
Kathy Wybourn: Large volumes of data that is collected from both internal and external sources, used to make smarter business decisions. The supply chain in the food industry is very complex—receiving supplies from all over the globe. [Big data can identify] trends in different regions of the world and assist food companies make better risk decisions about their supply chain. Big data will ultimately improve the safety and quality of products for consumers. Improved supply chain management [and] traceability of products will also lower the risk of food fraud.
We’ve moved from an analog to digital age. The internet has provided the connectivity to link data from raw materials to end users. Using social media data, GPS, photos, videos and data sensors can provide real-time data about raw materials through manufacturing, distribution and retail, which will allow an organization to have better insights into information and decision making along the entire supply chain.
DNV GL recently conducted a survey called “ViewPoint” about the application of Big data. The survey found that 50% of the respondents already have been doing something with Big Data in different ways. Interesting enough, Big Data has different meanings and importance to the respondents, but what is common, is the fact that data will be used differently in the future than what is currently in their tool box. Big Data will allow better insight and enable companies to make fact-based decisions and better manage both performance and risks. The respondents may have different definitions for Big Data, but they all agree that data will be used differently than today for making both internal and external business decisions.
“A higher number of food and beverage companies indicate that big data will have a high or fairly high impact on their business in the next 2¬–3 years. The companies in this industry indicate fewer barriers, even today, in taking advantage of big data concepts. Already, 21% say that their management team is preparing for the new reality and seemingly more food and beverage companies plan to invest in big data.” – DNV-GL Viewpoint Report
FST: How can the industry use big data to make food safer and more sustainable?
Wybourn: Big data will allow the food industry to become even more transparent, which will help improve food safety. Big data will improve supply chain management and allow organizations to make more informed decisions regarding processes, both internally and externally. Food manufacturers can improve efficiency and quality of their own manufacturing processes: Increasing output and solving operational problems faster, which will both have a positive effect on an organization’s bottom line.
Non-conformity data is powerful and can be collected through advanced analytics throughout the supply chain. This data can be further sorted by regions of the world, which will improve knowledge and insight about suppliers. Big data brings further insight beyond what is gained from one audit, which will allow organizations to be confident about making better risk decisions.
Additionally, big data can be used to assess your organization’s performance by benchmarking against other companies’ performance in the areas of nonconformities to food safety standards in their own or different regions.
FST: Can you give some examples of where food companies are or should be leveraging big data to help them in the compliance phase of FSMA?
Wybourn: Both large as well as small companies are struggling with FSMA preventive controls. FSMA mandates that a manufacturing facility have a risk-based supply chain program for raw materials and ingredients for hazards that require a supply chain applied control. Manufacturing sites may rely on a supplier or customer to control a hazard. An organization’s ability to manage big data to improve the organization’s tools to capture, store and analyze this data can greatly improve the monitoring of hazards and lower risk to the supply chain.
FST: Do you have examples of how some companies are leveraging technology to make the best use of their data?
Wybourn: DNV GL has new digital platforms, which can be used to benchmark your own organization to the performance of others.
eAdvantage is a customer portal that provides customers with a complete overview of their former and future audit activities. Through the portal they can see upcoming activities, work with findings and close non-conformities, communicate with an auditor, share audit information, access certificates and monitor their overall progress.
Lumina is a set of tools that provides better insight into a company’s management system. It analyses information hidden in the company’s audit data and allows to benchmark that company against thousands of others worldwide based on more than 1.6 million audit findings. It allows an organization to obtain an overview of their own sites performance, spot warning signs at an early stage and see how they compare to similar companies in the industry, giving confidence to make the right decisions.
Veracity is an open industry data platform, ideal for integrating data in a secure way. The Veracity eco-system handles asset data, manages data quality and applies advanced analytics, connecting industry players for frictionless data aggregation, sharing and benchmarking. In the aquaculture industry, this will lay the foundation for predictive analyses, decision support, indication warning, and simulation capabilities unlocking substantial growth potential in the global aquaculture industry. All the while, we make sure fish farmers and other data providers retain ownership and control of their data.
I believe we are only at the tip of an iceberg of where big data can take the food & beverage Industry.
FST: Is it possible to get too much data? Are food companies going to be bombarded with too much info that they don’t know how to use?
Wybourn: The answer is simple, yes. We live in a world of data abundance and information overload each day. Data sets are growing rapidly, and the ability to store and analyze data is daunting. The tools we have today will become obsolete tomorrow. One only can sort through data with the tools he/she has today to understand even the simplest of processes.
While the Internet of Things (IoT) is already having a major impact on safety in the food supply chain we’re only just scratching the surface of what connected devices can do to make the industry safer and more efficient. What strikes us as unique and innovative today will likely become standard across the food industry in the years to come as we find new and better ways to apply the technology in all aspects of the business.
One area we can expect to see the impact of the IoT grow is in a broader adoption of automation across the food supply chain. In the context of farming, we’re likely to see autonomous tractors supplant manually driven tractors as the primary equipment used to prepare land. Automated aerial drones will be able to assess the health of crops and deliver highly targeted applications of fertilizers, insecticides and weed killers to cut down on damage caused to crops by excessive use of those products. Transportation, too, is likely to see the impact of automation as driverless trucks take on the majority of shipments of goods.
Clive Longbottom will be the keynote speaker on a webinar hosted by Rentokil Steritech, the North American division of Rentokil, on July 13 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/10:00 a.m. PDT. The webinar will focus on the future of IoT in the food supply. Register to join by visiting http://tinyurl.com/foodsafety-rentokil-web2
Another key benefit the IoT will bring to the food industry is improved access to valuable data and in-depth analysis. This will allow more accurate tracking of shipments, better monitoring of quality throughout the supply chain and more useful prediction of potential problems. It’s here that we’re likely to see the biggest impact on pest management, as a broad network of connected sensors will be better able to identify and track pest populations, monitoring their movement and growth in a way that allows pest management professionals to target treatments more effectively. A recent survey of food professionals conducted by Quocirca and commissioned by Rentokil Initial shows that 20% of respondents think IoT will help them deal with cyclical problems such as pest swarms and seasonal flooding, while 19% believe it will provide the most benefit by alerting them to immediate issues such as unexpected pest infestations.
One thing we know for sure is that the technology will become more widely adopted throughout the industry as innovation drives costs down. Initially it will be difficult for smaller organizations with lower margins to invest in cutting edge technology, but as iteration and innovation push the boundaries of what IoT can do, they will also make more basic applications more affordable, as we’ve seen with technology across many industries in recent years.
While it’s easy to speculate and imagine a sci-fi-inspired future of driverless trucks, automated farm machines and limitless access to deep analytics, accurately predicting the exact applications of the IoT as it develops proves more difficult. What we do know is that we can expect the adoption of these technologies to grow at an increasing rate as more innovative and cost effective applications of the IoT are developed.
The Food Safety Supply Chain conference brought together industry stakeholders from FDA, CFSAN, GFSI’s certification programs, academia and food companies to discuss strategies and challenges of the supply chain in a more complex global environment. The two-day event was held earlier this month at U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention in Rockville, Maryland. Here’s what some of the speakers had to say.
(Click images to enlarge)
You can’t build safety at the border; you have to build in safety before you get to the border… The Foreign Supplier Verification rule requires importers for first time to share responsibility of products that are coming into country. We have written this rule with a lot of flexibility. – Sharon Mayl, senior advisor for policy to the deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA, on the FSMA FSVP rule
Transportation of food is a piece that doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it’s a very important part in ensuring the safety of food…[FDA is] in the process of developing a small entities compliance guide. We’re also revising the guidance we did in 2010 to ensure that it’s consistent with the rule. – Jennifer Thomas, director, division of enforcement, office of compliance, CFSAN, on the FSMA Sanitary Transportation of Human Food rule
Food fraud can lead to a public health threat—and should be managed under a food safety management system. – John Spink, Ph.D., director and assistant professor, Michigan State University, on supply chain transparency and food fraud
When you’re looking at the Foreign Supplier Verification Program, you also have to approve your suppliers. There are several aspects to this—you have to check their record with FDA, whether they have any warning letters or on import alert. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy from them, it just means you have to investigate what the problem is. – Russell Statman, executive director, Registrar Corp., on the FSVP rule
FDA doesn’t have jurisdiction over aquaculture farms. So we’re working with countries that do. Any country that has a significant industry has good aquaculture practice programs (GAqP)— every country now has one—so we’re working with them now to make them better. – Brett Koonse, consumer safety officer, FDA, on aquaculture and food safety
[The Sanitary Transportation of Human Food rule is important because of] the role that transportation has played in the past regarding foodborne outbreaks. We have to be proactive. We can’t learn from our mistakes anymore. – Debby Newslow, president, DL Newslow & Associates
Food safety should not be about just meeting the regulations. Suppliers must still meet the standards of your business. – Jorge Hernandez, chief food safety officer, Wholesome International
Collaboration and partnership are the only way your going to gain the transparency you need in the supply chain and build your brand for the protection it needs. – Melanie Neumann, president and global food safety attorney, Neumann Risk Services, LLC
One of reasons retailers take [visibility] seriously is that we’re the last line of defense. If you buy something at the grocery store and you get sick, you don’t remember the manufacturer of the product, you remember where you [bought] the product. – Terry Levee, senior director of food safety, Giant Eagle
Last week a panel of industry authorities gathered to share their perspectives on the importance of transparency in the supply chain and the challenges that food companies experience in managing different aspects, from their suppliers to once product reaches retailers.
“Understand that food safety today has changed significantly and will continue to change. It’s a dynamic field and regulations have only accelerated,” said Jorge Hernandez, chief food safety officer at The Wholesome Company. “You need to be more proactive internally and externally.”
Moderated by John Wadie, U.S. marketing operations manager for 3M Food Safety, the other panelists were Melanie Neumann, president of Neuman Risk Services, LLC and Terry Levee, Senior Director, Giant Eagle.
The supply chain of a single product often involves multiple levels. For a company to adequately evaluate its risk and vulnerability, it must have a grasp on the full extent of its supply chain, according to Amy Kircher, Dr. PH, director, Food Protection and Defense Institute. “When we think about the supply chain there are two points to consider: One is just being aware of the depth and breadth of a supply chain to create a food product. It’s much larger than who you buy from and who you sell to,” says Kircher. “Second is moving from a reactive mentality to a proactive mentality. How do we get ahead and close vulnerabilities before they are exposed or monitor threats to the food system such that we can put mitigations in place.” During a discussion with Food Safety Tech, Kircher shares her perspective on how companies can understand and protect their supply chain.
Food Safety Tech: What are the biggest supply chain threats facing food companies?
Amy Kircher: I think one of the biggest challenges is just understanding the entire food supply chain and all the buying, selling and manufacturing that happens along that line. When food comes from a point of origin—whether it’s a farm or a manufactured nutrient—what are all the steps and movements of that product that then results in the final product that the end consumer buys? Typically companies know at least one [step] back and one [step] forward, but they don’t always know the entire breadth of the particular ingredient that they’re buying. Or, if they’re in the middle of the supply chain, [they may not know] where all of their products may be going if it’s sold multiple times (i.e., a spice as an ingredient). There are exceptions—some companies are vertically integrated and know their entire supply chain. But on average, that is a real challenge: Understanding the complexity of the supply chain, where are you in that process, whom you are buying from, and where the food is going afterwards.
FST: How can companies gain a better understanding of their supply chain?
Kircher: Ask questions of whom you’re buying product from—from where are they sourcing the ingredient or commodity? For example, if you’re making a five-component food product, ask your supplier, where does it get its stock from? From where are you sourcing? Have an open dialogue with your vendors and make sure you have the process in place so if you had to quickly identify where an [ingredient] was from, you could.
Secondly, understand the ingredients that you need to procure and be able to monitor where there might be threats for that particular product or commodity. If you need to buy peppers as an ingredient for a spice blend or a can of soup, [you should] be able to monitor what’s happening in that particular commodity: Has there been an intentional adulteration recently? Any recalls? Have there been weather issues in the part of the world where your particular pepper is sourced? If we know there is a natural disaster in a region, how quickly are you notified? Do you have alternate sources as a backup?
A great example is the Ebola [outbreak]: When Ebola happened, there were changes that were happening with cocoa almost daily, because most of the cocoa is sourced out of West Africa, exactly where Ebola was happening. There were price shifts and some transfer concerns where cargo ships weren’t coming into port in some of those countries. It’s important to have an understanding of the ingredients or commodities that you source and be well aware of what’s happening in that landscape.
FST: What steps should companies take to protect their supply chain?
Kircher: You should be doing vulnerability and risk assessments of your supply chain. Know where there are risks of that particular supply: Those risks could be a multitude of things, be it a natural risk or something related to a change in trade policy. Know where you have vulnerabilities within your system: Where could a particular product be exposed to a vulnerability, either natural or intentional? [From there], start assessing what can be done about it. If there’s a specific ingredient that you need to have to make a particular product, where does it come from and do you have alternative sources? What kind of testing mechanisms do you have in place? Some vendors only have one manufacturing site or one receiving site for a product they’re manufacturing. How secure is that processing plant? Is it in a hurricane zone? Have you had criminal activity there? Understanding where there are vulnerabilities in your supply chain allows you to prioritize which ones you should spend money on mitigating.
FST: What technologies do you find to be the most effective in assessing risks and providing visibility throughout the supply chain?
Kircher: I think there are several products that will help. At the Food Defense and Protection Institute, we have a couple. The first is a supply chain documentation and analysis tool (CRISTAL) that allows you to document your supply chain throughout the whole system. Then it applies weights and algorithms to allow you to see what is most critical in your supply chain, and from there you can look at risks from hazards. For a lot of companies, the first step is to map the entire supply chain. Having technology that allows them to do that efficiently versus drawing or creating an Excel spreadsheet allows them to visualize where they might have gaps/challenges, followed by risk and vulnerability assessment.
Second is horizon scanning, or looking at early indications of warnings of events. Our tool is called FIDES (Focused Integration of Date for Early Signals). It looks at predicative analytics—are there conditions or drivers that are occurring that might result in an emerging event or event that might create a problem? We can always scan and monitor where we might have challenges.
We want to move people from a reactive food protection and defense to a preventive posture where you are starting to be ahead of it [threats] and understand where you might have a risk or vulnerability that gets exposed such that you can mitigate it prior to a consumer purchasing [the product].