Identifying and responding to food safety issues

farming tech

August 6, 2020

The US’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that roughly 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases—every year. Foodborne illness breakouts are obviously an important public health issue, but they also represent one of the greatest financial risks that food and beverage companies face.

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented a significant upgrade to the country’s food safety system with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). While the initial set of rules was implemented in 2015, new rules have continually come out since then, and will continue to do so through 2024. These rules require food and beverage companies to be more proactive in preventing food safety problems. Not only does this mean establishing preventive controls, but also validating and verifying those rules—while also documenting each step along the way.

When a food safety problem arises, batches, lots, and shipments need to be identified within minutes. Manufactures must be able to trace all aspects of products throughout the entire supply chain—with complete visibility at the ingredient level—from farm to table, and everything in-between. This is made even more challenging when complex supply chains traverse across multiple international borders, and when ingredients are sourced from remote locations.

A traceability solution can help address these issues with precision by providing thorough traceability information to help quickly isolate and recall all finished goods and raw materials associated with any suspected product quality or safety issue. The lot recall analysis capabilities of modern enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allow manufacturers to identify precisely where raw materials and packaging came from, how they were processed, how they were consumed, and where the finished product was shipped.

While the direct impact and cost of a recall can be calculated, the indirect damage to a brand is much harder to quantify. Business partners, both on the supply and demand side, may start to move their business elsewhere because being associated with the issue is a potential risk for their brand. This could force a company into having to focus on survival efforts, instead of proactively developing the business.

Fortunately, not all food safety issues occur on a catastrophic scale involving huge recalls (or litigations). More typically, the producer or processor discovers that quality controls have been accidentally breached, contaminating raw materials or lots of the finished product. Technology can provide the tools to track and trace origins of ingredients quickly and accurately, so containment of adverse quality events can be coordinated and executed quickly across the supply chain. This level of transparency can also help build trust across the supply chain.

To learn more about how food and beverage manufacturers can identify and respond to food safety issues, download the best practices guide: “Improving supply chain transparency in modern food and beverage manufacturing.”

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