Companies in the food supply chain need to consider investing in new technology to increase consumer confidence and mitigate risk. For food supply chains around the globe, legislative and production issues abound.
The United Kingdom is facing a mountain of food waste, with a study from International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network determining that food waste totals 22,000 tons for a value of nearly $70 million in a single year. While the majority of this waste does occur at the household level, the study said that waste at the supply chain level also needs to be addressed. The U.K. also had to deal with a scandal surrounding a grocery chain that mislabeled horse meat as 100-percent beef, following a mix up by one of its suppliers.
The U.S. has had it's own food supply chain problems in recent years, such as the listeria outbreak caused by tainted cantaloupe in 2011. This and other incidents have lead to growing concern over food provenance and the ability to successfully complete a recall. For all these reasons, the food supply chain should take advantage of technology that can increase traceability.
New Technology Can Improve Safety, Reduce Waste in The Food Supply Chain
Automated data collection and inventory control systems can help food supply chain companies keep watch over products throughout production. Inventory control technology can help reduce waste that occurs before food reaches households by ensuring that stock is rotated properly. It may also help reduce waste by testing various hypotheses surrounding packaging. The study noted that food packaging may play a role in waste.
"Few packaged products appear in the top 20. It is worth noting that the majority of the high wastage foods are typically sold both loose and pre-packed," said INCPEN Director Jane Bickerstaffe. "It would therefore be worth exploring if packaging more of those sold loose would reduce waste."
Automated data collection systems could track this merchandise throughout the warehouse and mobile data collection solutions could be used to track the product as it enters the logistical portion of the supply chain. If distributors can also collect information from retailers, they'd be able to determine whether elements of food safety and spoilage could be improved with different packaging methods.
Data collection and tracking greatly improve the ability to trace food during a recall. Completing a recall expeditiously and completely is imperative to avoid catastrophic damages to consumer confidence. In the case of the listeria tainted cantaloupes, it can also save lives.