Mapping supply chain first step in product safety

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Supply chain, Supply chain management, Management

Bill Michels, president of ADR North America LLC
Bill Michels, president of ADR North America LLC
It is vital for food firms to map their supply chains and know where products are coming from to prevent contamination, according to the president of a specialty-consulting firm.

Bill Michels, president of ADR North America LLC, which focuses on purchasing and supply chain management, said lot tracking can ensure a safe food supply chain.

He told FoodQualityNews.com that there needs to be a focus on monitoring the supply chain all along the process, so controls are put in place.

“Manufacturers can have a large number of tier suppliers depending on their product and their ingredients.  Tier one suppliers are usually very good but it is the tier two or tier three suppliers that are often less sophisticated as they can be smaller.

“There is more vulnerability in the fresh vegetable supply chain as they don’t see the temperature to kill the bacteria like meat does​.

The first thing for companies is to map their supply chain and understand where there materials came from, how it is handled and what quality standards do your suppliers have in place.

“There needs to be a full chain of custody, inspection levels, the depth of regulation, where it comes from and where it is going so that we have tighter controls.”

Food testing levels

Michels is president of ADR-ISM Supply Chain Management Consulting (Shanghai) Co., Inc. and a senior vice president of the Institute for Supply Management. 

He said with two agencies testing food (FDA and USDA) they have different levels of food safety testing.

“I trust canned foods as the Department of Agriculture has an inspector in every plant and there have been no illnesses linked to botulism for a long time."

When asked about recent spice contamination and the FDA's work to solve the issues, he said: “Spices have been found to be contaminated with insect fragments, rat and mice faeces, it used to be taken care of with ethylene oxide (EtO) but that was found to be a carcinogen and mutagen, so irradiation is now used to get rid of bacteria.”

Regulation needs

Michels had a career in senior management with SCM Corporation, Smith Corona Typewriters, Durkee Famous Foods, Boise Cascade, Campbell Soup Company and Vlasic Foods.

He said at the moment it takes a long time to identify the source of some foodborne outbreaks.

“To be sure food business need to be regulated, people get sick more than they ever did. It is very hard for companies without that internal ability to identify problems, increase quality control and inspection but lot codes should be put in place to safen up the business​.

“Prevention and detection relies on manufacturers being better at knowing who is in their chain, where are the key points and monitoring all tiers of their supply chain.

“The food industry is not ready yet but there could be some self-regulation to track lots, from the farm to the end consumer and with testing along the way so you know all the components and where they came from.”

Michels focuses on strategic purchasing, cost improvement, supplier relationship management and change management.

“Overseas products are especially difficult, you can’t source from behind a desk without taking a look, going on visits to suppliers in the chain and see what quality control and inspections they have and do they have clean facilities.

“We are not where we need to be in some cases for tracking and a bit of that is a resource issue with manufacturers not putting enough focus on it and only caring when it hits the bottom line.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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