The CDC alert that made headlines on November 23 advised consumers, restaurants and retailers not to eat, serve or sell any romaine lettuce, rendering the event the third E. coli outbreak related to romaine within a 12-month period. Because health officials were unable to quickly pinpoint the origins of the tainted lettuce, retailers and trucking companies were left to dump truckloads of affected products, likely amounting to tens of millions of dollars in losses. The occurrence is a staunch reminder of the major risks associated with lack of supply chain visibility and control in today’s food industry. It’s also a good reason to ask: How safe is YOUR supply chain?
Visibility into and strong control over your supply chain is paramount. Being able to prevent safety risks at every step of your product’s journey from farm to fork is invaluable – to both your consumers and the well-being of your brand. Let’s take a look at how food safety software can support this effort through each stage of the supply chain.
Stage 1: Raw Materials
Are your suppliers producing and distributing unsafe or low-quality ingredients? Are they introducing hazards as a result of their handling and sanitation procedures? Food safety begins at this first juncture of the supply chain, and it’s important to leverage smart software that gives you critical insight into this area.
Addressing food safety at the raw material stage involves implementing a strong supplier verification process, which means:
- Maintaining an organized list of your suppliers and importers
- Keeping accurate and up-to-date certifications and documentation on each one
- Conducting ongoing risk assessments
- Overseeing any necessary corrective actions
- Reporting regularly on the data collected from these activities
- Utilizing intelligent software for quick identification of supplier-related issues
Food safety software supports these requirements by keeping all of your records digitally stored and available in one centralized database, enabling you to easily access supplier-related data and automating reporting that can provide valuable insight to your team.
Stage 2: Production
Visibility, efficiency and connectivity are the present and future of food safety. If you want to put your brand in a position to meet the challenges posed by government regulation and consumer expectation, it’s important to integrate these pillars into your manufacturing processes.
When it comes to ensuring quality and safety, a lack of control or visibility can cause major problems. You need to be able to detect and control all aspects of operations – from personnel cleanliness and hygiene to equipment sanitation protocols, temperature requirements, chemical reactions, ingredient mixing and package storage. For every component of your quality and safety plan, there must be a verification process, documentation, evaluation, reporting and more. Without the control and visibility that food safety software provides, your efforts to meet these needs become far less effective.
The right software solution enables team members to store records digitally in one centralized database, easily access data to compile automated reports and extract hidden insights and trends that support risk reduction. Plus, the wide-reaching transparency it fosters within and across your plants facilitates more effective monitoring and control strategies, which results in reduced recall risk.
The success of your food safety and quality systems throughout the production stage is inextricably linked to the knowledge and insight you use to support them. Therefore, true transparency can only be attained by employing robust software that enables:
- Visibility into your entire testing program, across all facilities
- Tracking of all new and historical data
- Systematized audit trails and reports
- Documentation of every safety and compliance effort
- Widespread clarity on policies and workflows
- Universal accessibility to sampling data, testing results and corrective action records
- Verification of food safety and quality performance
Stage 3: Distribution
Food distribution has never been more complicated,” explains a post by Food Safety News. “Gone are the days of a simplified network that consists of plant to DC to store. Manufacturers’ warehouses, 3PLs, company-owned trucking, 3PL trucking, distributors, customer DCs, customer satellite warehouses and other selling locations all spell trouble for food safety.”
In addition, “sell-by, use-by, best-by, best-before dates and other terms to indicate food freshness complicate the process. Today, individual retailers have their own shelf life dates and rules. These factors contribute to potential breaches to food safety in the supply chain. If there is an issue, it typically falls back to the manufacturer to provide all the critical information about the product’s lifeline.”
Therefore, data tracking should never be an afterthought in your food safety strategies. In fact, it needs to be a top driver of your efforts. But far too many manufacturers in the food and beverage industry are still resorting to paper-based methods. These particularly painful systems of recording, filing and storing huge volumes of food safety data often result in reduced resources, impractical time constraints, storage limit frustrations and a high level of stress. Food safety software eliminates the chaos generated by manual efforts and minimizes the risk of food safety failures.
If you’re serious about reducing recall risk (and who isn’t?), it’s critical to adopt a solution that keeps you and the necessary team members fully informed on the performance, risk and mitigation information you need on demand. It should be able to funnel food safety performance data from multiple manufacturing facilities and supplier sites to all players in the quality, safety and compliance value chain.
Stage 4: Point of Sale
Once a finished product reaches its point of sale – restaurant, retailer, etc. – your responsibility for food safety does not come to a complete halt. And any negative incidents related to food quality and safety that become public knowledge can be detrimental.
Unfortunately for the manufacturing and restaurant/retail industries, any news of a food recall receives immediate and aggressive media coverage from both traditional and social media platforms. It’s an expense that spans every aspect from public relations management to eroded sales and the company’s valuation. As the news media picks up on the story, the blame game often ensues, echoing throughout social avenues and resulting in resounding effects on the brand.
That’s why the importance of visibility and control continues downstream in the supply chain. A cloud-based software solution that manages all data and workflows via a centralized database allows you to unlock food safety and compliance insights, maintain document control and security, and eliminate points of risk, error, inefficiency and miscommunication.
The point is comprehensive food safety cannot truly be achieved without standardized, documented, shareable and automated processes to safeguard against contamination and other risks across the full food journey from suppliers to consumers. By taking advantage of a solution like Corvium CONTROL-PRO, you empower your organization to prioritize visibility and automation at each of these stages, which is simply invaluable to your efforts to reduce risk and improve food quality.
To get an inside look at the cloud-based, comprehensive food safety solution that reduces your brand risk by automating and supporting visibility, transparency and communication, download your free CONTROL-PRO guide.