If there is one consumer segment that is constant in logistics, it’s the food supply chain. People and livestock require a constant intake of food to survive. However, getting this food to the billions of people and animals on this planet depends on a smooth and efficient food supply chain operation. While it’s often assumed that a food supply chain is a finely-tuned machine that operates on autopilot, the truth is that there are several aspects of the food-based supply chain that are vulnerable.
Since it’s critical to protect the food we eat, there are a few important food supply chain protection best practices that should be followed by the entire logistics industry. Noted below are four critical items that pose a threat to the efficient movement of food across the globe that should always be at the forefront of best practice lists.
It was not too long ago where traceability of supply chain commodities was a luxury. This isn’t the case any longer the case, especially with fresh food. In today’s supply chain, food of different types requires traceability – not only for consumer confidence but the laundry-list of FDA and USDA regulations that have popped up in recent years. It’s a statement of fact that consumers are more aware of food-related illnesses and the role that the supply chain has in contamination of food. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all food-borne illness issues are derived within the supply chain – from processing to shipping and receiving.
Due to these facts, the first item that should be considered to protect the food supply chain is making sure that the movement of food has solid traceability. Manufacturers, shippers, carriers, and retailers must all take proactive measures to document the manufacturing, packaging, movement, and storage of food throughout the supply chain. Not only does this protect stakeholders from litigation in the case of food-illness, but it can significantly reduce the potential of food being damaged, spoiled or becoming unsafe to eat.
Mistakes are often made due to poor communication. But when it comes to safe and efficient transportation – poor communication simply can’t occur. With so many individual moving parts that comprise the logistical movement of food across the globe, the potential for communication gaps is a strong reality. To keep our food supply moving efficiently, and to reduce the growth and spread of bacteria, manufacturers, carriers, shippers, and retailers must communicate with the latest technology. The use of cloud-based CRM’s and TMS’s that can send instant notification via SMS text, email, and desktop notifications can reduce the potential of delays in shipping, increased growth of bacteria, and spoilage.
The USDA indicates that the leading cause of food-borne illness is food being kept outside of its “danger-zone” for extended periods. If you’ve taken a food safety course, you’ll recall that the danger zone is the desired temperature range where bacteria grow. This temperature range depends on the type of food, whether it’s meat, poultry, pork, fish, or if it’s a produce item. Generally speaking, items that require refrigeration need to be kept under 40-degrees Fahrenheit, while items that require freezing need to be held under 32-degrees.
One way that all supply chain partners can contribute to the safe storage and movement of temperature-controlled foods is investing in newer and more efficient reefer containers. Today’s technology in HVAC and refrigeration has vastly improved the integrity and operation of these systems. Routine maintenance is also more affordable than ever before. As such, a best practice that all supply chain partners should consider is to focus on maintaining their current reefer containers or invest in newer systems.
As a global community, we tend to be quite dependent on regulations. Whether it’s here in the United States or the international supply chain, all stakeholders need to be proactive about following the rules and regulations that currently exist. On the other side, the EPA, FDA, and USDA need to actively enforce those regulations to ensure that all food being moved through the supply chain is being done so legally and within existing rules. Creating new laws and regulations is not proactive if the existing ones are not being enforced. This is a statement of fact across the globe in any industry but has a significant impact on the safe movement of food.
The global supply chain works best when all stakeholders follow best practices that make sense, are affordable, and don’t require a tremendous financial investment. The four items listed above fall into each of these categories. If you’re a shipper who is looking for more efficient ways to improve your food supply chain operations, reach out to an experienced 3PL like LTX, who can help you establish solid best practices that are affordable and helps protect our valuable food resources.