Many challenges today affect our growing global supply chain. Within the food and beverage industry the supply chain encompasses all aspects of producing, processing, transporting, selling and consuming food. Due diligence must be completed on all aspects to avoid foodborne illness. 


1 Raw materials: Many hazards can be introduced into a facility through raw materials. Some include pathogens, allergens, chemical residues, pests and foreign material.

Storage and handling: Three hazards must be addressed:

• Allergen control: Define, document and train your employees on your allergen control program to ensure proper storage, handling and cleanup.

• Temperature control:  Close monitoring and documentation ensures you’re compliant with regulatory and internal requirements.

• Foreign material control: A Foreign Material Control program takes into account different physical hazards possibly posing a risk to food safety—metal, wood, glass, brittle plastic, etc. Employees should receive routine training on your program.

2 Processing: Improper sanitation can lead to problems with pathogens, allergens or chemical residues. Cross contamination/contact can occur due to improper handling of equipment, tools, ingredients, etc. Foreign material contamination could get missed if proper testing and monitoring processes aren’t completed. Mislabeling could be overlooked if proper employee training is not provided.

3 Shipping and transportation:  Areas to consider during your risk assessment here include:

Is the vehicle at the right temperature; are your products stored in the right location in the vehicle? Is there any dirt/debris, signs of pests, damage, leaks, or moisture?  Is the vehicle clean, well-maintained and free of any suspicious odors? If the vehicle is a tanker, what was previously carried and was it a hazard? Are food items being loaded/unloaded without incurring damage? Has the load been properly secured to avoid tampering? How will you respond if the vehicle is in an accident? What is your emergency plan? Have you ensured traceability will be maintained throughout the distribution cycle?

Risk assessment

Thinking about risk assessment in the supply chain begins with external partners, raw materials, handling and storage, processing and shipping. Four main processes in supplier management help reduce risk and cultivate a strong relationship:

Selection: Compliance, food safety, food quality, food safety culture

Approval: Request for information, desk audit, facility audit, determine approval status

Onboarding (how suppliers acquire requisite knowledge, skills and behaviors): Formulations, specifications, communication, training

Maintenance: Product reviews, plan visits, regular meetings, scorecards

Risk management starts with identifying any relevant risks.  Assemble a risk team to help identify daily operational hazards. 

Risk-based thinking

Risk management puts plans and controls in place; it also requires the proper onboarding and selection and review process within the supply chain. Make sure that supplier approvals are based on more than just specification and cost, and are shifted into the thinking aspect of the standard supply chain into a supplier network. Leverage suppliers with risk-based metrics to assess their performances, viability as an organization, vision alignment, and regional differences.

Invest in technology to streamline this process. Connecting suppliers and building a method for creating a secure two-way collaboration with networks empowers visibility and control over processes. Have seamless links from event detection to event correction across the supply chain to eliminate and mitigate risks.

Safety management system

A Food Safety Management System (FSMS) supports the structure for managing and tracking supplier quality in the supply chain. Through certain automated software solutions users can:

Extend quality down the supply chain: Automated software, such as the FSMS, can manage processes such as change control, complaint handling and corrective actions as well as out-of-specification management and supplier performance.

Maintain supplier compliance management: Through the FSMS, users can manage certain qualitative measures such as communication on regulatory compliance, optimizing supplier processes for quality standards and assessing and auditing the supplier quality system and tracking any sub-contractors from suppliers.

Implement risk management processes: Identify and mitigate high-risk scenarios in the supply chain including acceptable levels of compliance, measure risk levels from suppliers and real-time monitoring of supplier risk.

A centralized FSMS helps enforce the supplier quality agreement, which will help to create visibility from the organization’s quality processes to those processes in the supply chain. Plus, building out a risk management process helps monitor and track supplier compliance. Risk management practices and measuring tools such as risk matrices, decision trees, failure mode effects analysis (FMEA) and others provide a quantitative means for building a risk history of each supplier.

Risk tools

Risk tools provide the ability to benchmark compliance within an organization. Building out risk methodologies and practices within an organization ensures compliance is met and avoids many risks associated with outsourcing -- quite prevalent in today’s society.

Some key areas to consider that ensure efficiency and effective use of resources are:

• Identifying the best method of communication in an emergency;

• Creating easy to use secure method of sharing information;

• Requiring adherence to specific programs that ensure proper safety and training methods are introduced into each necessary process.

Communication is key to gaining visibility into processes and procedures. Routine ad-hoc product reviews and building personal relationships with each team player by phone or online meetings and using scorecards helps track and trace steps internally and externally.

Overall, risk assessment and prioritization determines the probability, severity and impact of risk to your business. It should also identify how quickly any given problem can be reorganized and addressed. Food Safety Management Systems with risk controls build on strategic relationships with external partners—suppliers, contract manufacturers, service providers etc. Building trust through good communication and collaboration is essential to creating a good relationship between businesses and partners.