It's time to rethink the food supply chain
When a normal business-to-business supply chain falters, parts and products might not be delivered as promised. But what happens when problems affect the food supply chain?
An interesting blog post on LogisticsViewpoints.com suggest that the food supply chain is at risk, and that enough hasn’t been done to make sure the handling and distributing of food is safe.
The blog sources the ARC report, “Food Safety: Are We Getting Better or Worse?” Unfortunately, those who are not ARC clients will not be able to read it, but the blog itself does express statistics that back up its concerns on the food supply chain.
According to the report, in each year in the United States there are 76 million gastrointestinal illnesses reported, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations, 5,000 deaths and billions of dollars in medical costs.
The post compares those numbers, which have been relatively constant over the years, to car safety, where car accidents killed about the same number of people in the U.S. in 1950 as they did in 2009. So despite there being millions of more cars on the road, advancements in driver safety have kept deaths in automobiles down.
The report also says that major safety developments have been made in the manufacturing and mining industries.
Why isn’t it the same with food safety?
The ARC report argues that “global sourcing and rapid distribution” are to blame. Below is an excerpt from the report:
The Red Sudan incident is a perfect example. Sudan 1, a banned carcinogenic red food dye, was used to make red chili powder. This single ingredient created a major global incident before authorities discovered it had entered the global food supply chain, prompting dozens of product recalls. Over 600 food products were recalled. These included curry sauce, Worcester sauce, pesto sauce, ready-to-eat meals, soups, sausage, pizza, and Dijon mustard from major food companies such as Unilever, Heinz, McDonald’s, Tesco, and Sainsbury.
Many foods share the same common ingredients, which can throw the global food supply chain out of whack should one of those ingredients have a problem. The distribution of food nowadays is also much broader than it has ever been before, which helps spread food supply chain woes from country to country.
So what can we do? The author of the blog suggests total visibility in the food supply chain, from “farm to fork.” That seems like a very ambitious approach to solving the problem, but advances in the food supply chain are long overdue.
UK Food Supply Chain to be Exempt from COVID-19 Isolation
Vital workers in the UK’s food supply chain will be exempt from isolating after contact with COVID-19 under new emergency measures announced by the British government.
More than 10,000 people working in supermarket distribution centres, manufacturing plants and other food logistics services will be affected by the initiative. Staff who are told to isolate by test and trace or are notified by an official app will be allowed to continue working as long as they test negative.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the scheme would undergo a limited trial this week after consultation with the country's biggest food retailers. It plans to extend the measures through a wider roll out next week, impacting around 500 sites dedicated to stocking supermarkets and producing staple foods such as bread and milk.
“Food businesses across the country have been the hidden heroes of the pandemic,” said Environment Secretary George Eustice. "We are working closely with industry to allow staff to go about their essential work safely with daily testing.”
Speaking to Sky News, Eustice added that the exception would not be extended to other sectors.
"The reason we have made a special exception for food is for very obvious reasons,” he said. "We need to make sure that we maintain our food supply. We will never take risks with our food supply."
UK Supply Chains Under Strain
The news follows reports of empty shelves and widespread shortages in British supermarkets after a record number of people were told to isolate via the NHS app. Branded the ‘pingdemic’, more than 600,000 alerts were sent out to phones and mobile devices in the week beginning 8 July, warning people that they had come into contact with those infected by the virus.
It left already strained food supply chains under staffed and unable to cope. The mass alert has also caused disruption in other supply chains, exacerbating a prevailing shortage of drivers and other essential logistics professionals.
Savid Javid, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who was appointed last month following the departure of MP Matt Hancock, said: “As we manage this virus and do everything we can to break chains of transmission, daily contact testing of workers in this vital sector will help to minimise the disruption caused by rising cases in the coming weeks, while ensuring workers are not put at risk.”