Is There a Contamination Problem in the Food Supply Chain?
Published on May 15, 2019
Have you ever wondered what it takes to make it possible for you to bring dinner home every night?
What shipping process does your perfectly ripened tomato go through before it finally reaches your local market?
How do some of your favorite imported foods and beverages arrive without going bad?
Well, this is all made possible through an efficient food supply chain. It's possible thanks to forward-thinking shipping experts who know what issues may arise and how to mitigate them in a proper and timely manner. Having said that, one might assume that this fine-tuned system is incorruptible.
But the truth is that just like with any other shipping method, the food supply chain is prone to challenges.
Let's talk about what a few of these challenges look like and how best to navigate them.
The Rising Threat of Contamination in the Food Supply Chain
According to OSHA, the majority of food-borne illnesses begin in the food supply chain. Whether it be from mishandling or poor temperature control amongst other things, it is a very real threat.
Moreover, there is a need for increased trackability of food as it is vital to the safety of the consumer. As a matter of fact, it is this trackability that also protects the brands who supply food to the general public. And over the years, GPS and Blockchain technology has been making quick work of it. With today's technological advancements, we have gotten pretty good at tracking every purchase we make, especially our food!
Whether it is a truckload of pallets or a box of prepared meals to an individual customer, we now have the ability to see the entire shipping process from start to finish.
Yet with all the improvements in communication, the threat of food contamination continues to grow at a quick rate. These issues are expedited when you involve shipping across country borders, such as between Mexico and the US.
Lack of Communication
We can all agree that technology has improved communication across all fronts, but there are still instances where communication is sub-par.
In most cases, it’s these simple communication inefficiencies where issues commonly begin to rear their ugly heads. Undoubtedly, miscommunication on temperature-controlled shipments, for instance, can totally devastate a company in a heartbeat.
Unfortunately, many supply chain partners continue to have these basic communication gaps.
In order to reduce the threat of food-borne illness and bacteria contamination, this sort of miscommunication must be resolved. Talk to every department in your supply chain, keep all partners accountable for responding timely, and most importantly, invest in training your workers on the importance of solid communication skills.
Sometimes, all it takes is one word to change an entire course of action for better or for worse.
Keeping an eye on Food Fraud
Food fraud is typically associated with organized crime. El Chapo is the most recent example of this issue, using restaurants to push drugs across the border into the US.
This is just one of many examples of food fraud within today’s food supply chains. In an effort to reduce the threat of food fraud, the FDA has enhanced the Food Defense division, which specializes in food fraud investigations in the US. Additionally, they monitor international agents that do business with US-based companies.
To help combat food fraud, you are encouraged to contact the Food Defense division with information in regards to the smuggling of food items.
Being transparent in the food supply chain is vital to the safe and efficient movement of products.
In this industry, suppression of facts and mishandlings can result in deadly mistakes. Many parties involved in the logistics industry fight hard to increase the availability of communication logs, documents of important factors that impact food safety such as container locations. These things include correct temperature and humidity documentation, and inspection checkpoints validated by photographic and video documentation.
In fact, this issue sort of harkens back to the first one; lack of communication. When all parties involved are being transparent, reasonably open, and communicating in a productive manner, it benefits the food supply chain massively!
There is a Need for More Simplified Regulations that Make Sense
Most regulations created by government agencies help to improve safety.
Such is the case with the ELD Mandate.
In theory, the ELD Mandate protects drivers from too many consecutive hours spent on the road. And this is for good reason as fatigued drivers are a cause of several on-road accidents every year. However, there is a major glaring issue with this mandate.
The problem with this mandate is that it punishes everybody in an industry for the actions of a few. The impact on the food supply chain is that there are fewer driver hours available to efficiently move perishable freight. This reduces the travel time of commodities, which increases exposure to food being kept outside the “danger zone” when not in a properly prepared holding facility.
The truth is that today’s food supply chain is still prone to threats – many of which can be avoided through a few minor changes in mentality. It’s an industry that can be challenging to navigate, which is why many shippers reach out to third-party logistics companies for help. An experienced 3PL can help you bob-and-weave through the challenges, regulations, and hurdles that cause many shippers frequent headaches.