Tag Archives: Supply Chain

Kevin Payne, Zest Labs
FST Soapbox

2019 Food Safety and Transparency Trends

By Kevin Payne
2 Comments
Kevin Payne, Zest Labs

When it comes to addressing food safety, did the industry really make any progress in 2018? In 2019, what new approaches or technologies can be successfully applied to prevent problems before they occur and minimize the consumer risk, minimize the market impact, and speed up the identification, isolation and recall of contaminated products?

Field-packed produce offers a unique challenge to the fresh food supply chain, as it is not processed and is not required to adhere to an FDA mandated HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) process. It has been a challenge for field-packed produce suppliers to proactively identify or prevent contaminated produce from entering the supply chain. As a result, during serious contamination incidents, the reaction is to pull and destroy all suspect product from store shelves and supply chain. Due to the lack of data isolating the source of the contamination, this is the safest approach, but it’s costing the industry millions of dollars. Ultimately, our inability to prevent or quickly isolate these events causes confusion among consumers who don’t know who to trust or what is safe to eat, resulting in a prolonged market impact.

In response to the latest E. coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce, the industry has proposed a voluntary item-level label that reflects the harvest location and date, to help identify safe product to the consumer. At best, this is a stop-gap solution, as it burdens the consumer to identify safe product.

I work in the fresh produce supply chain industry. When I go to the grocery store, I examine the produce, noting the brand and various other factors. I was aware of the romaine problem and the voluntary labeling program, so I knew what to look for. But I’m an exception. Most consumers don’t know romaine lettuce is grown during the summer and fall in northern California and further south during the winter in regions that include Arizona and Mexico. Most consumers don’t know what the “safe date” for harvest really means—nor should they be required to know this information. They look to the industry to manage this. If we buy a car or microwave oven that is found to be unsafe, the manufacturer and the government are responsible for identifying the problem and recalling the product. Yet, in the produce industry, that responsibility seems to be moving to the retailer and consumer.

It’s an unfair burden, as the retailer and consumer do not have the necessary information to make a definitive judgement regarding food safety. The responsibility needs to be shared across the entire fresh food supply chain. Records about the produce need to be shared and maintained from harvest to retail.

Will 2019 be the year that we realize we can address this challenge proactively to improve the safety of our fresh food?

We need a new approach that leverages innovative technology to provide a more reliable solution. For example, irrigation water is often identified as a culprit in spreading bacteria. Yet even with regular testing of irrigation water, the results do not currently guarantee food safety. We see emerging technology that will make regular testing more reliable, accurate and affordable to facilitate more proactive management of the water supply. This will be a critical part of an overall solution for proactive produce food safety.

Blockchain technology has been hailed as a savior of food safety and traceability. Early in 2018, it was all the rage, as various sources claimed that, by using blockchain, recall times could be cut from days or weeks to seconds. But was this an oversimplification? Perhaps so, as this early hype faded by the middle of the year amidst the various food safety outbreaks that went unresolved. Then last August, Gartner, a  market analyst firm, declared that blockchain had moved into the “trough of disillusionment” on its 2018 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies as a result of over-hyped expectations. The firm predicts that the technology may reach the “plateau of productivity” within the next decade. Can we wait another 10 years before being able to benefit from it? Should we?

We expect that blockchain trials will continue in 2019. But, while blockchain has shown promise in terms of being a secure and immutable data exchange, questions remain. What data about the produce will be entered into the blockchain? How is that data collected? Is the data validated? Bad, inaccurate or incomplete data makes blockchain relatively useless, or worse, as it undermines a trusted platform. Further, without broad agreement and adoption of data collection, blockchain can’t be successful.

For proactive management of food safety, we will also need to address both forward and backward supply chain traceability. One of the challenges realized from recent outbreaks is that it takes time to figure out what is happening. Identifying the source of the illness/outbreak isn’t easy. Once we identify a source (or multiple sources) of the contamination, blockchain—assuming that all of the necessary data has been collected—only helps to more quickly trace back produce to its origin. But, for growers, quickly understanding where all product shipped from a specific location or date is just as critical in understanding and minimizing consumer impact. Tracing product forward enables a grower to proactively inform retailers and restaurants that their product should be recalled.

Blockchain currently does not directly support this forward tracing, but can be augmented to do so. But blockchain can maintain a food safety data item, or items, that could quickly and reliably communicate product status at the pallet-level, providing instant food safety status to the current product owner, even if they didn’t have direct contact with the grower. As such, a hybrid blockchain approach, as espoused by ChainLink Research, is optimal for forward and backward traceability.

Equally important, we need to fully digitize the supply chain to enable blockchain. To make comprehensive data collection feasible, we need to automate data collection by utilizing IoT sensors at the pallet level, to properly reflect how distribution takes place through the supply chain. We need reliable data collection to properly reflect the location and condition of product distributed through a multi-tier distribution network. That level of product data visibility enables proactive management for food safety as well as quality and freshness— well beyond the current trailer-level monitoring that only monitors transit temperatures with no benefit to managing food safety. Effective data capture will define the next generation of fresh food management, as it embraces proactive food safety, quality and freshness management.

Goals for This Year

For 2019, our goals should be to embrace new approaches and technology that:

  1. Identify food contamination at its source and prevent contaminated food from ever entering the supply chain. We need to focus on developing new technologies that make this feasible and cost effective.
  2. Accurately and consistently track product condition and authenticity of fresh produce from the time it is harvested until it is delivered. IoT sensors and proactive fresh food supply chain management solutions provide this capability.
  3.  Make it cost-effective and practical for growers, suppliers and grocers to use solutions to improve the entire fresh food supply chain. If we make the process burdensome or without a reasonable ROI, implementation will lag, and the problems will persist. But if we demonstrate that these solutions offer value across the fresh food supply chain—through reduced waste and improved operational efficiency—growers, suppliers, shippers and grocers will embrace them.
Maria Fontanazza, Douglas Marshall, Food Safety Consortium, Eurofins

Top Questions Food Companies Should Ask Prospective Suppliers

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Maria Fontanazza, Douglas Marshall, Food Safety Consortium, Eurofins

Building a supply chain verification program can be a complicated task. In the following exclusive video with Doug Marshall, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Eurofins, we learn the top questions that should be asking their suppliers during the process. Marshall also gives his perspective on the integration of data into the supply chain and how it can mitigate risk, along with where he’s sees the future of food safety testing headed.

Video shot at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium.

Gisli Herjolfsson, Controlant
FST Soapbox

How Supply Chain Digitalization and Data Helps Prevent Costly Recalls

By Gisli Herjolfsson
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Gisli Herjolfsson, Controlant

Recalls are something that food brands plan for but hope to never experience. They are an important public safety issue, but they also have a significant economic impact as well. At best, a product recall is a benign mistake that causes little more than aggravation and inconvenience for a few angry customers. At worst, the consequences can be tragic, both in terms of human and financial impact.

Industry research conducted by the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association places the average cost of a single recall at $10 million. That calculation includes only the direct costs of a recall. For the full, long-term costs, including direct and indirect liabilities, you’d need to further account for the immediate loss in sales, litigation costs, as well as any long-term damage caused from a loss in consumer confidence in your brand.

Consumers’ relationship with food is ever changing. They demand transparency about its contents, origin and safety, and for good reason. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 1 in 10 people are sickened yearly from eating contaminated food, leading to 420,000 deaths. Consumers have long memories for businesses that poison them. The larger the size of your company and the more attention it receives, the potentially greater impact on your long-term business prospects. With the recent E. coli outbreaks tied to romaine lettuce, food safety is top of mind for consumers, and it is impacting entire market segments.

One of the easiest ways to prevent recalls associated with perishable foods is to ensure that food and beverage products are safely produced and continually kept at the right temperatures. Sounds easy, right? In reality, it is far from it.
Gaining end-to-end supply chain visibility can help you prevent costly recalls altogether. Data that today’s technology provides will be important for mitigating risk and protecting a brand’s reputation.

Get Proactive

The idea of prevention is paramount to FSMA. It’s clear that the FDA expects that once a producer or supplier discovers that something has gone wrong, they go back and figure out exactly what happened so that they can put measures in place to prevent it from happening again.

While current FDA guidelines and various EU safety regulations generally require that food can be tracked one step up and one step down the supply chain, this remains a very siloed approach to traceability and is open to risks—risks that producers, food retailers and restaurant brands cannot afford to take.

For USDA-regulated products, HACCP employs a similar process. Prevention is key, and if your monitoring measures miss an issue that could compromise food safety, you’ll need to go back and determine the root cause of the problem.
A cold food manufacturer can do a lot to control risks under its own roof, but how do you avoid costly recalls with ingredients or with temperature abuse after a product leaves the facility? Regulations or not, knowing where your ingredients and food products come from and being assured of their safety is critical in protecting your brand and company from the financial and reputational damage caused by a food recall.

Looking forward in the supply chain, maintaining the cold chain is necessary for many products, including fresh produce, frozen and deep frozen foods, and also those that must be kept at room temperature but still require temperature control. Even if you and your suppliers are incredibly careful and practice prudent safety measures, you may not have full visibility over who else is handling your products. If temperature mishandling by someone else necessitates a food recall or results in a food safety incident, it is still associated with your brand, even if you weren’t the direct culprit.

For many food retailer and restaurant chains, it is common practice for them to share their internal food safety guidelines with their suppliers and partners, and require that they prove a product’s source of origin, lifespan, how those products are stored and transported from point A to point B, as well as the environmental conditions in which foods are kept. Allowing suppliers and logistics partners to self-manage their supply chain does nothing to proactively ensure that they and a food brand aren’t in the headlines due to a food safety incident.

Digitally Connect the Supply Chain

This is where technology and data can play a critical role in managing your temperature-controlled food and beverage products. More and more food enterprises are utilizing Internet of Things (IoT) technologies that talk to the internet so they can collect supply chain data into dashboards and access it on demand.

IoT can be considered as a central nervous system for the supply chain. Through IoT, you can track shipments or trace temperature, moisture or other factors that can have an impact on food quality. Not only can you discover problems more rapidly with this technology, you can narrow the scope of recall. For businesses transporting temperature-sensitive products, this means they can manage product movement data in real-time and respond to issues before they lead to a food safety incident or product waste.

From a food production standpoint, IoT solutions can substantially reduce recalls from issues like labeling, processing and contamination. One of the primary causes of a food recall is microbiological in nature, with the majority of cases involving fruits and produce. IoT data can help detect issues further upstream in the supply chain and, since products will change hands several times before they reach a consumer, it can give you a complete picture of the product’s lifecycle—something that cannot be done with clipboards and ad hoc or periodic inspections.

Through cloud technology, food businesses can connect their end-to-end supply chain, analyze data, discover trends, illuminate weak points and directly respond to them to improve their overall processes.

Track and Trace Everything

Continuous and consistent tracking and tracing through technology not only simplifies recalls, it helps prevent them altogether. The only thing worse than being faced with a food recall is not knowing which products are affected or where exactly they are located.

Real-time temperature monitoring and product movement traceability technology can give you the confidence that foods are continuously kept at their required temperatures and remain safe for consumption. When you need to track and trace an ingredient or product, time is often of the essence. Delays may mean more resources and efforts are spent in producing something that may be rejected, or worse, recalled, or that the potentially impacted product isn’t isolated in time.

The digital integration of suppliers and other partners is vital if a food enterprise wants to have more control over its cold chain. Consumer demand for social responsibility and ethical business operations means that businesses need to provide greater visibility and transparency into the origins of their products. With today’s supply chains, having data—essentially, a horizontal IT layer that lets people share and access data—removes the barriers of communication among stakeholders.
IoT serves as a tool to remove the barriers to collaboration between food manufacturers, food logistics businesses, restaurant and food retail chains, regulatory agencies, and the end consumer. It increases the transparency of information and helps to deliver better products throughout the food supply chain.

Get Started

Acknowledging that most food companies have limited resources, food brands can still face their efforts only on the suppliers and customers that are of the greatest concern. Often this means looking at the combination of “high-risk product” with “high-risk supplier/partner” and prioritizing that part of the supply chain. This prioritization will help food brands allocate their resources and focus their time and money on the highest risks to their customers and brand. Once they’re able to reap the benefits of a preventive food safety program, they’re better able to justify allocating additional resources to other parts of the cold chain.

While IoT, cloud monitoring and traceability technology has been around for some time, real-time data is now becoming standard. Traditionally, the cost of IoT technology and data infrastructure could be quite expensive. However, different business models like subscription are on the rise, which lower the cost of entry for new prospects and can connect a broader range of products, not only high-value goods.

Although many food brands already have some proactive food safety programs in place, it only takes one incident to lead to a major food recall—even if it isn’t your company’s product—and it can negatively impact your business.
As an industry, food brands need to continue raising the bar in terms of what is considered standard and “best practice” when building an effective, proactive food safety strategy. Utilizing best-in-class technology can ensure the delivery of safe foods to the market, prevent recalls, protect business interests, and most importantly, protect consumers.

magnifying glass

Food Safety Tech’s Best of 2018

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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magnifying glass

The end of the year is always a time of reflection. At Food Safety Tech, it is also a time when we like to share with you, our readers, the most popular articles over the last 12 months. Enjoy, and thank you to our loyal and new readers, as well as our contributors!

10. Three Practices for Supply Chain Management in the Food Industry

By Kevin Hill, Quality Scales Unlimited

9. Food Investigations: Microanalytical Methods Find Foreign Matter in Granular Food Products

By Mary Stellmack, McCrone Associates, Inc,

8. Stephen Ostroff to Retire from FDA, Walmart’s Frank Yiannas to Take the Reins

By Food Safety Tech Staff

7. FDA Inspections: Top Five Violations for FY2017

By Food Safety Tech Staff

6. Is There Any End in Sight for the E.Coli Outbreak in Romaine Lettuce?

By Food Safety Tech Staff

5. CDC Alert: Do Not Eat Romaine Lettuce, Throw It Out

By Food Safety Tech Staff

4. Five Tips to Add Food Fraud Prevention To Your Food Defense Program

By Melody Ge, Kestrel Management

3. 5 Problems Facing the Global Supply Chain

By Sean Crossey, arc-net

2. FDA: 172 Ill, 1 Death, Romaine Lettuce E. Coli Outbreak Likely Over

By Food Safety Tech Staff

1. Romaine Lettuce Outbreak: We Knew It Would Get Bad Quickly

By Maria Fontanazza, Food Safety Tech

Food Safety Tech

Call for Abstracts: Be a Part of the 2019 Food Safety Supply Chain Conference

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Food Safety Tech

The supply chain is a potentially weak and vulnerable part of a company’s food safety plan. The annual Food Safety Supply Chain Conference is months away and we are accepting abstracts for presentations. The conference takes place May 29–30, 2019 in Rockville, MD.

If you have expertise in the following areas, we invite you to submit an abstract to present at the conference:

  • Food Safety Supply Chain Vulnerabilities & Solutions
  • Audits & Inspections
  • How to Write Supplier Specifications
  • Blockchain Technology
  • FSMA’s Sanitary Transportation Compliance Tools & Techniques
  • Supply Chain Traceability
  • FSMA’s FSVP Compliance Tools & Best Practices
  • Data, Predictive Analysis
  • Recalls: barcode labeling, case histories and lessons learned
  • Testing Strategies of the Supply Chain
  • Supplier Verification Best Practices
  • Supply Chain Risk Management
  • Food Safety Transportation, Distribution and Logistics
  • Food Authenticity
  • Food Safety/Quality Culture measurement in supplier management
  • Supplier Management Case Histories

Each abstract will be judged based on educational merit. The submission deadline is February 8, 2019.

Food Safety Consortium

Making Your Supply Chain Smarter, Safer and More Sustainable

By Maria Fontanazza
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Food Safety Consortium

How to build a smarter, safer and more sustainable food supply chain: This was a big topic at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium last month. David McCarthy of IBM Food Trust led a panel of experts from the retail side of the industry in a Q&A session about their biggest challenges in the supply chain, the role of digital and how to achieve a higher level of transparency.

What are the main areas in the supply chain where there’s a major need for improvement?

Sean Leighton, vice president of food safety and quality, Cargill: One of the biggest challenges that I see from a supplier perspective is people’s assumptions around what is the supply chain—our mindsets, our ability to talk with each other on “what do you mean by ‘supply chain’”?

Cindy Jiang and Scott Horsfall at the 2018 Food Safety Consortium
Cindy Jiang and Scott Horsfall (all images credit: amybcreative)

What is food safety’s role in the supply chain?

Cindy Jiang, senior director of worldwide food safety, quality and nutrition, McDonald’s Corp.: The supply chain is a supply network; it’s not linear. The most fundamental thing is to ensure there’s no disruption—that the supply chain can provide goods and food product to your customers. When you’re looking at the supply chain, [there’s a] change between the traditional thinking and the digital demand. How do you provide information in an effective way to your customers?

Howard Popoola, vice president, corporate food technology and regulatory compliance, The Kroger Company: Our supply chain means nothing if we aren’t able to deliver safe foods to those consumers in the last mile. Consumers are thinking about the experience that they’re going to have with this product. They’re not thinking about whether it’s safe or not. They’re thinking about the meal they’re going to make at home with the ingredients that they purchased.

The biggest pain point from the retailer’s perspective, when you look at us as being the last in the chain, is in transparency [and] knowing where the products are coming from. Transparency is very big for us. And it takes more than the retailer to open that door of transparency to the consumer.

What are the challenges you’re seeing in providing transparency?

Scott Horsfall, CEO, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement: I think a big challenge right now and in the future is communication.

Leighton: I think the winners….are going to be the ones that try to achieve consumer trust. The future is no place for the three ring binders…it’s digital. Where does the data sit? How can you provide access to them through customers?

Howard Popoola, Sean Leighton, Food Safety Consortium
Howard Popoola and Sean Leighton

How does the digital transformation play into providing transparency?

Popoola: The consumers have already trusted the food industry. There are millions of people walking into retail stores buying product. If the trust isn’t there, they wouldn’t be doing that. We erode that trust when [a consumer] has a terrible experience with that product.

How are you seeing digital transformation across the supply chain?

Jiang: Digital is one of the top three initiatives of McDonalds; how do we connect with consumers? When serving 70 million customers each day, how can we get to the transparency to understand the supply—digital is one of the answers. From the supply chain standpoint, we’re looking at the analytics. We cannot think about only one solution. We have to have different solutions to get the end results.

Popoola: I think the food industry has to see itself as a big ecosystem. If we don’t see ourselves as an ecosystem that strives for the one thing,… digital is always going to be a mirage. We have to look at what is digital and understand the fact that [we have large and small companies]. It’s not going to be one size fits all.

How long will it take the food industry to get to a completely digital operation?

Jiang: Looking at the total industry digitized—the majority of the work can be done within the next five years, [by] looking at leading companies. But in terms of total digitalization of the ood network in the U.S., I think that will take another 10 to 20 years.

Food Safety Consortium
(left to right) Howard Poopola, Sean Leighton, Cindy Jiang, Scott Horsfall and David McCarthy discuss supply chain challenges during the 2018 Food Safety Consortium

Horsfall: I think there’s a challenge with much of the farm community to get to this point. There’s also this issue with how you transmit the information. [Horsfall predicts] 10-15 years for the industry.

Leighton: Even a 100% digitized food industry has limited value if the players in the industry can’t pull together to deliver meaningful insights from it all.

What are the most promising innovations solving transparency?

Jiang: When looking at innovation, not just technology (technology is an enabler)— the most impactful innovation is human innovation: How can we work together? The GFSI platform started 20 years ago, and now it’s so impactful around the globe. [Now we’re] looking at how to harmonize food safety standards.

How can we standardize and harmonize… for ingredient suppliers?
How [can we] use the GS1 platform, numbering system to track on where the ingredient is coming from and how that product is made for us—what’s in my product?

Think about the human collaboration and how to improve where we’re at.

Poopola: I would like to tackle this from a different perspective: When we built technologies (whether off-the-shelf or customized) 20 years ago, we thought [it would be around for] the next 100 years. It’s clear today that the technology you have in place might be obsolete in five years. We have to look at the technology we’re building and acquiring today: Will it be relevant in five years?

Leighton: It’s hard to wrap my head around…deep learning and AI [artificial intelligence]. The insights we can gain from machine learning and predictive analytics. Could AI be human’s last invention?

Horsfall: In produce industry, which hasn’t always been in the front, I think that’s changing. [We’re] trying to bring AI and new technology to bear.

Bryan Cohn, Foodlogiq

Managing Risk and Traceability in the Supply Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Bryan Cohn, Foodlogiq

Traceability and risk management go hand-in-hand. In a Q&A with Food Safety Tech, Bryan Cohn, food safety solution engineer at FoodLogiQ, shares his thoughts on risk and the critical role of communication.

Food Safety Tech: What does risk analysis mean in a complex supply chain?

Bryan Cohn: Risk analysis means the same thing it has always meant. The concept of risk is elemental; it transcends all of humanity and is rooted deep within our very DNA. Sure, we’ve added tools and technology to help us, but we still can not see into the future; thus, there will always be a risk. The best way to perceive, evaluate and comprehend risk in a complex world is faster and more accurate communications.

FST: Why is communication critical to avoid or mitigate risks within the supply chain?

Cohn: Let’s use an analogy here. Nobody likes traffic, right? In the morning when you’re getting ready for work, you might turn on the local news or check your favorite navigation app to find out the traffic conditions along your commute. You know your commute like the back of your hand, and you’re aware of every potential trouble spot along the way. But like most of us, you probably rely on fast and accurate communication from either traffic cameras, local news reports, or navigation information on your phone to give you a real-time analysis of what is happening. So aside from the usual trouble spots, you are made aware of any unexpected traffic accidents, road construction, or weather delays, which allows you to make real-time, actionable decisions about your commute.

If we think ahead – the same way we do about our work commute – and re-evaluate our communication strategy around our supply chains, we can begin to take a much stronger proactive approach to risk analysis and mitigation. If we spot a trend within our supply chain that may increase risk, we can take action before a threat materializes or intensifies.

FST: Can your risk management plan create value in the company?

Cohn: Any time a good communications strategy is integrated into your risk management program, you create value. By soliciting, evaluating and responding to feedback, you will inherently mitigate risk by addressing potential problems before they become problems and identifying new threats in a fast moving complex supply chain.

Tim Lozier, EtQ, Inc.
FST Soapbox

How to Mitigate Risks and Issues in Your Supply Chain

By Timothy Lozier
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Tim Lozier, EtQ, Inc.

As business becomes more global, effective and efficient, supply chain management is more vital than ever. Even if you’ve optimized your supply chain, uncertainty can cause issues when sourcing raw materials, goods and services, which could ultimately impact on your business, customers, revenue and reputation.

Fortunately, forward-looking risk management can help you understand potential problems in the supply chain and allow you to create contingency plans or take mitigating actions. Supplier risk management will let you ensure quality at every stage, help you prepare for potential issues, and deliver goods and services to the quality and deadlines your customers expect.

An Overview of the Supply Chain

The supply chain is the process through which you source raw materials, goods, services and other key functions from your suppliers. It has multiple facets:

  • Identify the right suppliers and vendors.
  • Negotiate prices, terms and conditions.
  • Place orders with suppliers.
  • Arrange for transport of goods and services to your business or to other manufacturers.
  • Make payments to suppliers.
  • Receive products and services into your business for onward provision to end customers.

If you want to avoid problems and maximize quality throughout the supply chain, you will need to explore each of these areas.

Key Risks to Effective Supply Chain Management

Here are the main risks on the supplier side, and how to manage potential issues.

Poor Quality Supplier Challenges

Risks with poor quality suppliers include:

  • Goods, services and raw materials that do not meet your requirements.
  • Delays in sending out your orders.
  • Unreasonable demands made to your business.
  • Hidden, detrimental terms and conditions.
  • Damaged vendor relationships.

You can mitigate these risks through:

  • Getting recommendations from other organizations that are sourcing similar items or services.
  • Insisting on samples of the items you are planning to purchase.
  • Reading reviews of suppliers and feedback from other customers.
  • Ensuring you have robust contracts in place that clearly define the relationship.
  • Employing a vendor manager who can ensure that relationships and negotiations run smoothly.

Unexpected Prices or Supply Challenges

Risks with pricing and supply include:

• Volatile pricing and potential overcharging.
• Suppliers not being able to source and provide what you have ordered.

You can mitigate these risks through:

  • Locking in guaranteed pricing for specific areas and predefined lengths of time.
  • Auditing of invoicing and costs versus agreements and contracts.
  • Getting backup suppliers in place if your original supplier has a supply issue.
  • Guaranteeing with the supplier that they will hold a certain amount of inventory for your specific needs.
  • Insisting on regular reports of stock levels that you can draw down from.

Cultural, Environmental and Economic Challenges

Risks with culture, environment and the economy include:

  • Language and cultural barriers with suppliers leading to misunderstanding.
  • Local laws that impact on a supplier’s ability to meet your needs.
  • Environmental factors like natural disasters
  • Unstable political movements.
  • Societal unrest and conflict.

You can mitigate these risks through:

  • Getting backup suppliers in place if your original supplier has a supply issue.
  • Using local expertise to understand and deal with any potential legal or political issues.
  • Creating a contingency plan in the event of a natural disaster or economic issues.
  • Using a relationship manager who can understand and deal with differences in language and culture.

Transportation and Distribution Challenges

Risks with transportation and distribution include:

  • Inefficient logistics and distribution, leading to delays or loss.
  • Unexpected costs of transportation, import and export, including tariffs and customs.

You can mitigate these risks through:

  • Getting backup distributors in place if your original distributor has an issue.
  • Reading reviews of distributors and feedback from other customers.
  • Ensuring you have robust contracts in place that clearly define the relationship.
  • Understanding potential costs throughout the supply chain.
  • Creating a contingency plan in the event of supplier issues.

Examples of Supply Chain Risks and Issues in the Food Industry

Let’s dig into some potential risks to food supply chains, and how you might mitigate them.

Unusual Weather Patterns Lead to Smaller Harvests and Lower Yields
Food manufacturers rely on a steady supply of raw materials to make the products consumers eat every day. However, weather and climate can be anything other than predictable, and have several associated risks. Potential mitigation plans include:

  • Identifying early climate trends that could impact a region and seeking out alternative sources.
  • Having backup contracts with other suppliers if the crops from one region fail to meet appropriate yields.
  • Developing alternative products that use fewer of a particular type of raw material or ingredient.
  • Stockpiling vital ingredients in secure, long-term storage.

Tariffs Impact Import and Export Prices
Political uncertainty can result in increased customs tariffs to trade in certain goods. Potential mitigation plans include:

  • Importing or exporting a surplus of goods before the tariffs come into effect.
  • Seeking out alternative routes for food supply chains that do not go through impacted countries.
  • Diversifying into food production that’s not impacted by specific tariffs.
  • Moving part of manufacturing to regions not affected by tariffs.

Unexpected Production Issues Impact Food Safety
Food safety is critical to consumer confidence and a food manufacturer’s reputation. Despite stringent quality in the ingredient and manufacturing process, the global food supply chain can sometimes introduce contamination or other risks. Potential mitigation plans include:

  • Clear, objective, verified, regular testing of all raw ingredients, independent of origin, type or destination.
  • Labeling, batch numbers and other identifiers so all goods can be tracked through the supply chain to allow for easy identification of contaminant sources.
  • st recall process so any products that are in stores can be easily removed and returned for testing.
  • Exceeding FDA regulations and guidelines for safe food manufacturing.

When you’re managing risk in the supply chain, it is vital to capture all potential issues and prioritize them in terms of likelihood, impact and any other variables that are critical to your business. You can then get risk mitigation plans in place, and ensure your stakeholders and cross-functional teams have the resources they need to resolve your supply chain risks.

Melanie Bradley, Partech

Tech Spotlight: Using Technology to Improve Processes in the Supply Chain

By Melanie Bradley
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Melanie Bradley, Partech

Whether driven by regulatory factors or brand protection, the food industry has adopted advanced monitoring and management technologies to maintain and support modern day food safety cultures and operations within companies. This type of technology utilizes checklists and sensors designed to monitor and gather data. Typically, these are built into handheld devices that store collected information in the cloud. The stored data is instantly accessible for management to monitor. Additionally, the FDA demands that two years worth of records be on hand during an inspection. Instead of sorting through copious piles and file drawers of paper, the information can be pulled directly from the database and presented to the inspectors.

In an effort to improve the operation, food companies should adopt new processes to be proactive and ditch the old days of manually tracking and recording temperature data. Utilizing this type of technology ensures consistency, transparency and quality. Not to mention the increase in efficiency and savings over time.

Perhaps the most powerful technological methodology to implement is using the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve processes in the supply chain. How is IoT relevant for a food safety strategy? In an integrated approach to food safety, IoT temperature sensors dispersed throughout the cold and hot food chain, coupled with a food safety/task management system for taking HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) required food safety temperature measurements, provides unprecedented visibility and traceability, for an end-to-end food safety strategy for grocery stores or restaurants. It’s worth noting that customers are not necessarily looking for an IoT solution when they start the process for acquiring a solution for monitoring coolers/freezers or grills, but for an automated temperature monitoring system whose data is cloud-based and just so happens to be available via the internet.

Data from IoT sensors dispersed through the food chain is continually collected and analyzed to ensure temperatures do not exceed pre-defined limits. These limits are based upon HACCP guidelines. The collected data is then subsequently stored electronically for a period specified by the user, typically up to two years from the collection date per FSMA regulations. If a temperature measurement falls outside pre-defined limits, an alert via text or SMS can be sent to the end-user for corrective actions. Recent developments in IoT have also coupled active monitoring with predictive analytics to determine appliance health.

Should an issue occur in the food chain, food safety data would then be correlated with transactional data to not only define when a limit was exceeded, but to potentially trace the impact to the consumer or in- store sales/profitability. Additionally, high or low sales of a specific item could also be equated to how the item is prepared.

Utilizing checklists that guide operational efficiency, powered by IoT technologies is not only limited to food safety. The capabilities of IoT can be deployed for task management or facilities maintenance practices such as entry/exit applications, facility maintenance/sweep logs, CO2 sensing (beverage and condiment), customer queue length for ordering or check out and incident reporting—when the documentation of an incident is required should a customer or employee incur an injury within the facility.

The implementation of comprehensive end-to-end food safety and task management strategy utilizing remote monitoring based upon IoT promises to provide businesses with a new cornerstone for building a comprehensive and preemptive food safety and facilities plan. By meeting the strict requirements of HACCP regulations, companies can continually reduce operational expenses, decrease waste and potentially predict events that could affect the food chain and subsequently the consumer. An integrated approach to food safety utilizing a food safety/task management system with IoT can positively influence all consumers within the restaurant, grocery and food chain realms.

Food Fraud

Food Fraud: How Chemical Fingerprinting Adds Science to the Supply Chain

By Sam Lind, Ph.D.
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Food Fraud

You would be forgiven for thinking that food fraud is a sporadic issue but, with an estimated annual industry cost of $50 billion dollars, it is one currently plaguing the food and drink sector. In the UK alone, the food and drink industry could be losing up to £12 billion annually to fraud.

As the scale of food fraud becomes more and more apparent, a heightened sensitivity and awareness of the problem is leading to an increasing number of cases being uncovered.

Recently: Nine people contracted dangerous Vibrio infections in Maryland due to mislabeled crabmeat from Venezuela; food fraud raids have been conducted in Spain over fears of expired jamon re-entering the market; and authorities seize 1 ton of adulterated tea dust in India.

Spurred by the complexity of today’s global supply chains, food fraud continues to flourish; attractive commercial incentives, ineffective regulation and comparatively small penal repercussions all positively skew the risk-reward ratio in favor of those looking to make an extra dollar or two.

The 2013 horsemeat scandal in Europe was one such example, garnering significant media attention and public scrutiny. And, with consumers growing more astute, there is now more onus on brands to verify the origin of their products and ensure the integrity of their supply chains.

Forensic science is a key tool in this quest for certainty, with tests on the product itself proving the only truly reliable way of confirming its origin and rooting out malpractice.

Current traceability measures—additives, packaging, certification, user input—can fall short of this: Trace elements and isotopes are naturally occurring within the product and offer a reliable alternative.

Chemical Fingerprinting for Food Provenance

Like measuring the attributes of ridgelines on the skin of our fingertips as a unique personal identifier, chemical fingerprinting relies on differences in the geochemistry of the environment to determine the geographic origin of a product—most commonly measured in light-stable isotopes (carbon, nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, hydrogen) and trace elements.

Which parameters to use (either isotopes, TEs or both) depends very much on the product and the resolution of provenance required (i.e. country, farm, factory): Isotope values vary more so across larger geographies (i.e., between continents), compared to smaller scales with TEs, and are less susceptible to change from processing further down the supply chain (i.e., minced beef).

The degree of uptake of both TEs and light isotopes in a particular produce depends on the environment, but to differing extents:

TEs are related to the underlying geochemistry of the local soil and water sources. The exact biological update of particular elements differs between agricultural commodities; some are present with a lot of elements that are quantifiable (“data rich” products) while others do not. We measure the presence and ratio of these elements with Inductively Coupled Plasma—Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS) instrumentation.

Light Isotopes are measured as an abundance ratio between two different isotopes of the same element—again, impacted by environmental conditions.

Carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) elements are generally related to the inputs to a given product. For example, grass-fed versus grain-fed beef will have a differing C ratio based on the sugar input from either grass or grain, whereas conventionally farmed horticulture products will have an N ratio related to the synthetic fertilisers used compared to organically grown produce.

Oxygen (O) and hydrogen (H) are strongly tied to climatic conditions and follow patterns relating to prevailing weather systems and latitude. For ocean evaporation to form clouds, the O/H isotopes in water are partitioned so that droplets are “lighter” than the parent water source (the ocean). As this partitioning occurs, some droplets are invariably “lighter” than others. Then, when rainfall occurs, the “heavier” water will condense and fall to the ground first and so, as a weather front moves across a landmass, the rainfall coming from it will be progressively “lighter”. The O/H ratio is then reflected in rainfall-grown horticultural products and tap water, etc. Irrigated crops (particularly those fed from irrigation storage ponds) display different results due to the evaporation, which may occur over a water storage period.

Sulphur (S) has several sources (including anthropogenic) but is often related to distance from the sea (“the sea spray effect”).

Analysis of light isotopes is undertaken with specialist equipment (Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry, IRMS), with a variety of methods, depending on product and fraction of complex mixtures.

Regardless of the chemical parameter used, a fingerprinting test-and-audit approach requires a suitable reference database and a set of decision limits in order to determine the provenance of a product. The generation of sample libraries large enough to reference against is generally considered too cost prohibitive and so climatic models have been developed to establish a correlation between observed weather and predicted O/H values. However, this approach has two major limitations:

  1. The chemical parameters related to climate are restricted (to O and H) limiting resolving power
  2. Any model correlation brings error into further testing, as there is almost never 100% correlation between measured and observed values.
    As such, there is often still a heavy reliance on building suitable physical libraries to create a database that is statistically robust and comprehensive in available data.

To be able to read this data and establish decision limits that relate to origin (i.e., is this sample a pass or fail?), the parameters that are most heavily linked to origin need to be interpreted, using the statistics that provide the highest level of certainty.

One set of QC/diagnostic algorithms that use a number of statistical models have been developed to check and evaluate data. A tested sample will have its chemical fingerprint checked against the specific origin it is claimed to be (e.g, a country, region or farm), with a result provided as either “consistent” or “inconsistent” with this claim.

Auditing with Chemical Fingerprints

Chemical fingerprinting methods do not replace traditional traceability systems, which track a product’s journey throughout the supply chain: They are used alongside them to confirm the authenticity of products and ensure the product has not been adulterated, substituted or blended during that journey.

A product can be taken at any point in the supply chain or in-market and compared, using chemical fingerprinting, to the reference database. This enables brands to check the integrity of their supply chain, reducing the risk of counterfeit and fraud, and, in turn, reducing the chance of brand damage and forced product recalls.

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