A single recall or health scandal can turn a household name and market darling into the low bar for their competitors, virtually overnight. Just ask a brand like Blue Bell or Jeni's. Food safety is swiftly becoming a focus and a need for informed consumers, who expect impeccable behaviors in every step of the supply chain — from the initial supplier to the final plate. Ingredient viability and safety is a vital component when they're voting with their dollar, which is why they reach for brands that emphasize trustworthy handling procedures and innovative packaging solutions. However, these two brand-boosting moves alone aren't enough to fully secure a supply chain, especially if they're applied after the fact. Recovery from a food safety scandal can be infinitely more expensive than preventative measures, which is why you need to carefully evaluate your supply chain.
For a food product like bacon, with its versatile appeal as a food in its own right and as a popular ingredient in other finished foods, cutting-edge packaging and advertising is only part of the equation. To truly cement its place as a consumer favorite, its entire food supply chain must be analyzed, optimized and adjusted to reflect the safe consumption expectations of the end consumer.
Transport: An Achilles' Heel?
Warehousing temperature regulation and handling procedures get a lot of attention in distribution and planning, but if your products pick up bacteria or aren't handled correctly on the route over, it's all for nothing. Meat products, such as bacon, may be smoked and salted but that doesn't mean that constant temperature and containment is any less important. Light, air and even movement such as vibration can contribute to the safety or risk of food products, regardless of how rigorous the warehousing procedures are that await them. Assurances on the part of the carrier do mean something, but real-time data speaks far louder than promises.
Ideally, your supply chain should work with a transport partner that offers transparency and visibility in this vein. HeavyDutyTrucking's Tom Berg notes that remote real-time temperature monitoring can also help pinpoint issues and remedy them, alerting companies in the event of a potentially dangerous temperature fluctuation as it happens.
Food Safety: A Group EffortAccountability, and the methods used to enforce it, are very important in the drive to ensure efficiency and safety in the food industry. When a worker or team knows that their load — be it a truck load on the road or a pallet in the warehouse — is wired to monitor itself, they're more inclined to take responsibility for it. With food items narrowed to traceable batches, each armed with data that leaves an indelible trail along the way, there's very little chance of a safety concern failing to point directly to the person that perpetrated it. Your suppliers should be just as enthusiastic about monitoring, assessing and improving accountability and tracking as you are. After all, their company's reputation is on the line as well. If any hesitation or unwillingness to adopt reasonable monitoring technology is present, the offending supplier might not be a good fit for your supply chain safety needs.
End at the Customer, Not the Store
Even if your food supply chain runs smoothly all the way through to store delivery, there's still a chance that food security issues can arise. Make sure that storage areas are clean and consistently within a safe temperature, both "behind the scenes" as well as in any customer-facing coolers. Follow guidelines for single-use food packaging, if it is being used, and emphasize the importance of employee training and handling to prevent human error as products are being prepared and stocked.
Remember: true safety in food does not end at the shelf, it ends when a customer has safely prepared and/or consumed the finished product. Listen to what your customers are saying as well. if any patterns of complaints emerge, be sure to immediately share this information with the supply chain, compare notes and take action if needed.
Food safety is more than a marketing bullet point, it's a reflection of customer confidence in the food industry as a whole. Committing to careful handling and oversight of products that have the potential to spoil when shipped or stored incorrectly is not only a corporate duty, it is an ethical one.