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Tips for keeping the supply chain in check

In recent years, the nation’s food supply has been in the news, which has caused great concern by consumers. There are a number of legislative activities to attempt to alleviate this concern, but the main responsibility is, and always has been, on the management of the firm in the food chain. So what can a firm do to address such issues? The answer is simple—define and document your role as management.

Top management is often discussed in many standards and contract requirements, including those of ISO 22000 and ISO 9001. This organization point is the key to a firm’s success and the success of the food chain.

Management must provide evidence of its commitment to the development, implementation, and operation of its food safety system. Specifically, management should:

  • Illustrate how food safety is of utmost concern and communicate this throughout the organization.
  • Establish a food safety policy for all to see.
  • Make certain the firm has the necessary resources to accomplish food safety objectives.
  • Establish an approved supplier program.
  • Perform periodic reviews of the entire system.

It is also important for the firm’s plan and operation to have an effective communication strategy externally as part of their role in the food chain.

At a minimum, the firm needs to communicate food safety issues clearly and frequently with both sides of the food chain—who the product is going to and where it has come from. If this is accomplished by all points in the food chain, a strong communication link is established and food safety problems can be minimized, maybe even eliminated, from the consumers’ minds.

stevenwilsonSteven Wilson
Chief Quality Officer, Seafood Inspection Program
NOAA Fisheries/U.S. Dept. of Commerce

2 Responses

  1. As you have said in your article, it is important that top management “Establish an approved supplier program”. I think more emphasis needs to be placed here, with respect to the ordering and receiving of raw material used in food processing. Firms need to have objective evidence that the raw material used, is produced following good manufacturing practices. Periodic second party audits need to be done to assure firms that ingredients etc are being processed in a sanitary environment following food safety practices.

  2. We need to recognize that this incident was largely cased by willful fraud and intentional neglect. Most companies provide good internal quality according to current GMPs, and do not exemplify the reckless behavior of PCA. Governmental regulation and oversight is a very expensive overhead cost that drives up consumer prices, with only a limited success at preventing willful intent to avoid GMPs. We should not overreact to this situation, and impose increased regulation on industry because of a “single bad apple”. Rather, the agencies who failed in their oversight of this company should be taken through a corrective action process and disciplined accordingly.

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