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Food industry grapples with supply chain woes

Supply chain woes continue to wreak havoc on the food industry, raising concerns over food quality and safety, and placing newfound emphasis on traceability systems. Both retailers and food manufacturers are struggling with the ripple effects of the ongoing lockdown in Shanghai, trade disruptions in the Black Sea region, fuel price shocks, and widespread port congestion and freight delays.

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in ten people globally fall sick each year after eating contaminated food. Image credit: Girl With Red Hat | Unsplash

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in ten people globally fall sick each year after eating contaminated food. Image credit: Girl With Red Hat | Unsplash

“Global turmoil raises the risk that food will not be distributed swiftly, which in turn risks outbreaks of contamination and food-borne illnesses,” notes Eskort chief executive officer Arnold Prinsloo.

“There’s a saying in the investment world that when the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked. Likewise, in the food industry, it’s never been more important for manufacturers and producers to be able to track and monitor ingredients every step of the way to ensure consumer health and safety.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as one in ten people globally, or 600 million individuals, fall sick each year after eating contaminated food – a number which could skyrocket without the necessary food management controls.

As a result of growing pressure on the industry, the global food traceability market is therefore expected to grow at an annual average of 9.3% over the next three years, reaching a total value of some R325 billion by 2025.

“As businesses, traceability offers the opportunity to help protect public health and reduce food waste by creating more agile and responsive food systems. This in turn works to safeguard brand reputations and build consumer loyalty,” adds Prinsloo.

Traceability also works to optimise supply-chains through measuring food losses and identifying weaknesses in supply chains. This significantly reduces the risk of food safety issues or product recalls and enhances efficiency. It’s a win-win for consumers and companies.

Stringent control measures

Demonstrating the level of detail demanded by well-constructed traceability systems, leading food producers’ own systems have been designed to monitor the smallest possible batches which are allocated unique serial numbers. These codes capture a range of details such as the individuals responsible for packing product boxes, the time boxes were packed, the individual raw materials used, and their origins.

“For pork products, this enables us to trace the meat all the way back to the individual pigs raised on specific farms,” states Prinsloo. “Where many companies take a broader approach by allocating a week’s production to a batch, ours are deliberately smaller for greater product control. This investment not only means greater food safety benefits for customers, but also reduces overall risk in terms of possible recalls.”

As an example, to prevent any risk of cross-contamination between suppliers and farms, trucks from different farms are prohibited from entering the manufacturing premises at the same time and are disinfected before entering or leaving. Eskort maintains strict compliance with Pork 360 standards for improving animal welfare and enhancing biosecurity throughout value chains.

They also adhere to the FSSC 22000 international food management system accreditation. This includes strict requirements for environmental and product testing, record-keeping, temperature controls, fraud prevention, and product tampering protections.

“We have an onsite laboratory for daily environmental testing, and we also submit raw material samples to an external laboratory for independent verification. All proteins need to be tested before use to prevent food fraud, and both our plants are under full camera surveillance,” he notes.

The costs involved are considerable, but absolute transparency and safety is make or break for food brands. Far from being a regulatory burden, investing in more rigid controls and systems represents a strategic opportunity to generate greater value for households and businesses.