The tense vibe in the food supply chain and TheFSM novelty
The continuously evolving supply chains need adaptive frameworks that allow for timely response to food safety problems and moving from reaction to prevention. Under this statement, one can understand the urgent need for applications that will enable the remote supplier risk assessments and predictions regarding the next critical incident in the supply chain. A wide variety of tools is used today by Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) professionals to assess risk ranging from literature-based classification of risks to Excel files and software tools. However there is a huge amount of data that exists on the potential hazards and risks across the supply chain, on the types of hazards that have to be assessed and inspected and the many tools available to food safety professionals to examine and monitor the risks of the supply chain.
Our project, an EU funded project under Horizon 2020 named “The Food Safety Market” (TheFSM), is bringing a top-notch solution and niche innovative technologies that aims to simplify the procedures followed by the FSQA experts. TheFSM platform, the main outcome of our project, will be built upon 3 operational applications (Food Inspector, FOODAKAI and AGRIVI) with the ambition to boost the competitiveness of European food certification by creating an open and collaborative virtual environment that will facilitate data exchange between different participants in the food supply chain.
What we want to focus on in this article is something that is often overlooked by food safety professionals regarding the supplier risk assessment process.
Increasingly, consumers are becoming more conscious of where their daily products are originating from and food safety professionals have a duty of care to ensure that each and every product out there and the related ingredients are at the highest possible standards — sustainably and ethically sourced.
Most of the quality assurance and food safety professionals have their way to audit their suppliers, however, we have produced a checklist to help support this process drawing on our knowledge of best practice.
Ensuring supplier compliance
Before embarking on a supplier risk assessment let’s go through some of the basics prior to honing in on the finer details.
· Firstly, what are the legal demands of the product category and/or raw material you are sourcing from your supplier? Is the supplier complying with these?
· Do you have access to laboratory test results for at least two batches of this product/raw material?
· Do you have test results for sensory evaluation?
· Do you have access to the global trends in recalls in this product category and/or raw material for the next 5 to 10 years?
· Have you identified the top hazards and vulnerabilities for this product category for the last 10 years?
We would recommend if there is at least one area that you don’t feel confident on you continue to read our 5 step check-list, to ensure you have peace of mind across your supply chain.
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash
Step 1: Geopolitical considerations
· Is the supplier based in a country with a history of frequent of food recalls for this type of raw material during the last 5 years?
· Is the food safety regulatory system in the country of origin based on Codex principles or considered to be a “similar” system to the US?
· Is the supplier based in a country with a high corruption index?
· Is the supplier based in a country with a high-risk index, according to OECD?
· Is the supplier based in a country that has experienced significant fluctuations in crop production during the past 5 years?
Step 2. Supply chain due diligence
· Does the supplier provide verified information on raw material transparency?
· Does the supplier provide verified information on raw material traceability?
· Does the supplier provide verified information on raw material certification compliance?
Step 3. Certification status
· Does the supplier possess a valid certificate of compliance to a global standard of food safety such as GFSI?
· What is the status of the certificate?
· Does the supplier possess more than one food safety certification?
Step 4. History of food recalls, food safety incident or food fraud incidents
· Has the supplier been involved in food recalls, food safety or food fraud incidents during the last 5 years?
· Has the supplier been involved in food recalls , food safety or food fraud incidents during the last 2 years?
Step 5. History of border rejections, import detentions, complaints, or warning letters
· Does the supplier have any records of border rejections, import detentions, complaints or warning letters in the last 5 years?
· Does the supplier have any records of border rejections, import detentions, complaints or warning letters in the last 2 years?
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash
Bottlenceks in auditing and TheFSM platform
Collecting all the required information, organizing it in a spreadsheet, analyzing all the hazards, estimating the risk and creating the report from the findings is a time-consuming and error-prone process.
This process will be highly facilitated by the utilisatiion of TheFSM digital platform that will provide insights for all potential hazards, allowing the generation of risk reports based on data collected from a large number of National Authorities from all around the globe. Furthermore, a deep hazards analysis, the supplier check and the risk estimation will be performed efficiently and in a few minutes. These measures will be possible as TheFSM project plans to design, implement and validate a commercial strategy that will drive the adoption of TheFSM platform around the world. To this end, it will use state-of-the-art blockchain technologies and advanced semantic technologies to help data integration and interoperability. Multilinguality is another key feature of the project, offering multilinguality for data ontologies and textual information. The key technological innovations in the project also include big data indexing, processing and visualization capabilities for real-time data processing and food risk model execution, as well as a multi-sided data brokerage service.
TheFSM aims to address the business needs of everyone along the safe food supply chain – from farmers and food manufacturers to food distributors and retailers and certification bodies. Thanks to the innovative technologies that the partners will apply in building the platform, all stakeholders will have easier and more reliable access to data about food certification.