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Horses for (main) courses!

/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/horsemeat_189048.jpgThe Horsemeat scandal running wild across Europe didn’t exactly break out of the starting gate. It began at a canter in January, when the Food Safety Authority of Ireland found isolated cases of horsemeat in beef burgers sold in British and Irish supermarkets.

The story gained global attention, picking up its pace to a full gallop, in mid-February when European food regulators discovered horsemeat in school meals and hospitals across Europe and the U.K. Major supermarkets, fast food chains and food manufacturers, such as Burger King, IKEA, Nestle and Iglo Food Group, have since recalled products.

Peter Marks, CEO of Manchester-based Co-operative supermarket chain, wrote to more than one million of the company’s members to apologize for “meat contamination” in its products. Sodexo, the world’s biggest catering company, recalled its entire frozen beef product (the irony is that they run the catering at Ascot Racecourse!!).

The Guardian newspaper created an interesting interactive map showing where the horsemeat came from. “More than 60,000 tonnes of horsemeat was traded by European countries in 2012,” according to the map.

This scandal has resulted in a drop in meat sales across the board in the U.K. There is also a risk of increasing prices to ensure the quality of products in the future.

Protecting the Supply Chain through improved traceability

So how can companies:

  • Gain better visibility into what goes into their products?
  • Improve consumer confidence moving forward?
  • Track and trace from farm to plate, improving operations and protecting their brand?

They must rigorously monitor and control their business and supply chain practices to assure this does not happen again. This would mean more government regulations and more audits, as well as more scrutiny when selecting suppliers.

All of this ultimately could mean more costs!

Horsemeat has appeared in “beef” products to varying degrees. Some have only shown traces, which may be the result of meat processing plants not properly cleaning equipment. However, other products have had very high percentages of horsemeat, which is a much larger problem.

In either case, establishing full visibility and compliance built into a complex supply chain is a challenge for any business. But the right processes and tools make it possible.

Food manufacturers must be able to assure consumers that food is safe, and that it is sustainably made and distributed. Consumers are increasingly demanding visibility into exactly what’s in their food; where it’s grown; and how it is made.

More and more consumers are making choices based on food’s provenance. Therefore suppliers, processors, distributors and retailers need to step up their control and visibility across the supply chains, tracking products from raw material to the point of consumption. This has to include compliance with regulatory bodies and process monitoring from “farm to plate.”

Transparency and traceability across the entire supply chain — at the appropriate level of granularity and detail — makes it possible to close this information gap. In today’s connected environment — where any hint of a recall is visible to all consumers at the click of a button — it is the only way for a business to protect themselves from scandal.

On a lighter note, the scandal has inspired a surprise revival for horsemeat in France!!

You can follow me on twitter @howellsrichard

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