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  January 2nd, 2017 | Written by

Food Supply Chain Vulnerability

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  • Vulnerability of the food supply chain is a hot industry topic.
  • Food supply chains are subject to breaches of physical security and malicious contamination.
  • Insight into the vulnerability of the food supply chain.

The replacement of Arabica coffee beans with the cheaper Robusta variety is one example of how food supply chains can be breached for the purposes of fraud. Consumers and producers, for that matter, are misled into paying a premium for an inferior product.

Fraud is not the only motive for breaches of food supply chains. “Vulnerability of the food supply chain,” notes a recent white appaer from Transport Intelligence, also takes the form of “malicious contamination by ideologues, extortionists, criminals, or terrorists.” TI issued the white paper to educate logisticians on best practices in this area.

Other examples of food fraud has included the contamination of chili powder from Sudan, cumin spice contaminated by peanut, and the horsemeat contamination of beef. Examples of malicious tampering include the adulteration of Tylenol products in the United States in the 1990s and the UK employee who was accused of spreading peanuts in a nut-free factory because of a grudge he held against the company.

“Increasing levels of outsourcing have also exacerbated the risks to the supply chain,” the paper noted. “‘Economic owners’ (the main brand coordinating the supply chain) often have little visibility of the conditions in which the products are manufactured, transported or stored.”

To analyse the vulnerabilities and risks in the supply chain, food manufacturer must fully understand all the parties involved in producing, storing, and distributing their ingredients and products. “Effective procurement and robust supplier approval and supplier management then become core elements to minimizing supply chain risks,” according to the paper.

A first step is to consider the exposure of each ingredient to threat and to rank the risks within supply chain stages and at geographical locations. For example, if the supply chain involves transportation through war zones or areas of criminal activity, “the risk level of theft and adulteration for monetary gain can be assessed as high and steps taken accordingly.”

To ensure that controls and checks are in place at every stage of the extended value chain represents a responsibility for third party suppliers, including those providing global supply chain and logistics services. “As governments and consumers become far more aware of the origins of the food products they buy and the conditions in which they are moved and stored,” the paper concluded. “the issues of food defence and supply chain vulnerability will become ever more critical.”