Food has hit the headlines in a big way this year on several occasions and not always for the right reasons, forcing Buyers to increase their level of vigilance when reviewing their supply chain sourcing strategies. With a number of bodies including the FSA and BRC auditing and accrediting suppliers on an ongoing basis, it begs the question ‘what more can be done to future proof the supply chain from a food safety perspective?’ It might seem that the current system of checks and balances is not as fool proof as it should be and these ‘scares’ have simply highlighted loop-holes in the system which surely need to be addressed.
The FSA, BRC and other regulatory bodies in the main provide a detailed and rigorous service. They have brought accountability to the industry and ensured stringency of best practice in food safety. So, what more can Buyers be doing to ensure their businesses safely navigate through these choppy waters and ensure they don’t fall foul of some of these alleged ‘food scandals’ whilst continuing to buy and serve safe food? These incidents highlight an increase in responsibilities that need to be adopted by both Buyers and Suppliers alike. Buyers need to be savvier when pre-qualifying suppliers and suppliers need to be more rigorous with in house processes.
Developing close working strategic partnerships with key suppliers and ensuring mutual understanding of how each other’s business work is paramount to success. Buyers need to understand more about the bodies/associations that are auditing their suppliers and be crystal clear on exactly what areas are being audited and then be more demanding as to gaining visibility of the outcomes of these audits. Accreditation is one thing but digging deeper and analysing the accompanying flag and action report is vital to discovering potential early warning flags which could escalate in the future. Ticking a compliance box and noting copies of certificates/accreditations is simply not enough. Regular and ongoing reviews of Supplier processes and premises visits are a must! Buyers need to ensure that technical rigour and honesty are an embedded pillar of their supplier’s business strategy, not just a token gesture. Technical excellence and compliance should come first and be visible as an influencer at board level.
Other questions buyers should be asking include (but are by no means limited to):
What is the speed of investigation response times once issues have been flagged?
With what frequency do Suppliers Scenario test with regards to traceability and more importantly, what are the results of these tests? How quickly can they trace a product back to source?
What is the investment in staff training for new practices and procedures, especially where high employee turnover is experienced?
What are the protocols that are in place to ensure latest legislation is being adopted and how are these changes/updates communicated out?
Complete transparency with regards to traceability processes, auditability and accountability is vital between Suppliers and their Customers. Suppliers need be going above and beyond to ensure absolute confidence from buyers in their due diligence rigour. Ultimately buyers, or their technical representative, should insist on regular reports from key suppliers, especially those of ‘high risk’ products, and importantly these reports need to be read and acted upon, rather than them being a box ticking exercise as so often happens for both supplier and buyer. The risk it too high to simply be ignored as we have seen too often this year.
To speak to a supply chain expert at Procure4, call Chris Mullen on: 01789 471197 or email email@example.com
By: Sarah Rudge, Food & Beverage Senior Category leader, Procure4.