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Restoring Consumer Confidence with Active Food Safety Monitoring

Contamination can occur anywhere in the Supply Chain

The recent milk scandal in China has created urgency for food companies around the world to rethink about their ingredients procurement, processing and supply chain strategy. It appears that the melamine contamination in China could have occurred anywhere in the milk supply chain. Melamine is a man made substance that was added illegally to increase the “apparent protein content” of the milk. Consumption of this tainted milk is said to have led to tens of thousands of sick children. 

High probability and Severe Consequences

Milk is the critical ingredient for food products such as yoghurt, ice-creams, biscuits, cakes, chocolate snacks etc. The impact of contaminated milk can therefore be very widespread. Studies indicate that the probability of contamination and the consequences of such contamination can be very high for categories such as Dairy, Meat and Seafood. There have been repeated incidents of major recalls and products getting de-listed in these categories. And the consequences can be severe, even fatal.

Compliance to Legal Frameworks

Most governments now have regulations in place that require compliance. For example regulations in the US (Bioterrorism Act 2002) and in the EU (General Food Law Regulation 178/2002) require strict compliance and mandate that each company keep records of immediate past sources and immediate next sources of food. This means that companies must track the source of every raw material used in their products and every initial recipient of their product beyond their control. This legal framework is necessary for establishing traceability, and for accurate withdrawals, in case of any food safety problems. 

Active Food Safety Monitoring is needed

Variable quality characteristics of the raw materials has always meant greater emphasis on Quality Management, however low margins in categories such as dairy products, might have led to manual procedures and minimal documentation in the past. The role of better Quality Management systems in ensuring Food Safety becomes even more important today. Quality inspectors now need to perform more tests in the same timeframe, as with perishable products freshness declines rapidly. Quality Inspectors also need to check more carefully for melamine and other additives. They need reliable systems and processes. 

Reporting and monitoring various events in the supply chain needs to be looked at more proactively now, to prevent large-scale problems from happening. There is a growing need for an Active Food Safety Monitoring System that can be used not just by Quality Management in the organization, but also by other functions such as Procurement and Collection from Farmers, Shop Floor Managers and Operators, Sales and Distribution staff to continuously monitor the product, improve quality standards and document quality compliance for subsequent audit. Efficiencies gained in the utilization of raw material and assets would of course be one of the factors leading to a profitable business. 

An increased focus on Quality and adoption of disciplined processes is much needed by the industry today to restore consumer confidence. Companies seeking growth need to invest in building a robust platform that provides visibility across the whole extended enterprise, which unites the functions in a global supply chain with standard processes, and provides embedded compliance to government regulations.

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