Safety & Sustainability: Do Your Suppliers Care Enough?
Proper food safety isn’t just something that you can focus on within the context of your own processes and facilities. If you want to maintain integrity across the board, you also have to consider how food safety is being dealt with both up and down the supply chain. This means carefully vetting food suppliers to ensure their practices align with your needs and beliefs.
It All Starts With the Supplier
Much like it’s impossible to have a thriving tree without a healthy root system, it’s extremely challenging to sell safe food products to customers without sourcing ingredients and food items from suppliers who prioritize food quality and safety.
Food safety is important at every step of the supply chain, but it has to be a focal point from the beginning. If food becomes compromised or ingredients are contaminated from the start, it’s impossible to overcome down the road. It leads to unnecessary costs and expenses further down the supply chain.
The problem is many organizations rush to decisions when choosing suppliers, or make their choices based solely on price, convenience, or location. Building a business based on convenient suppliers is a risky proposition, especially if you’re sourcing from foreign suppliers.
The absolute best thing you can do moving forward is to pay careful attention to supplier selection within the context of safety and sustainability. Whether you realize it or not, each decision they make (in terms of safety) has a direct impact on the quality and safety of the food products you’re producing and selling to customers.
Some Things You Can Do to Properly Vet Suppliers
Many businesses don’t have a proper understanding of what it looks like to vet suppliers with food safety in mind. With that said, let’s take a look at some quick tips that will help you get started.
#1: Assess the Facility and and Observe If Possible
You can learn a lot by communicating with suppliers via phone or email, but you don’t really know what’s happening on the ground level if you don’t take the time to assess and audit, and better yet visit their facilities in person.
When you audit a supplier’s facility, you can document and make observations about how food is handled, whether they follow industry protocols, and how employees interact. Each of these factors can tell you a lot about a supplier.
#2: Inquire About Allergen Awareness
One particularly relevant issue is allergens. With millions of people suffering from a variety of different food allergens, it’s absolutely mandatory that you work with suppliers who can guarantee products free of cross contamination.
Ideally, any supplier you work with should have an allergen awareness strategy in place and be able to show you exactly how they avoid contamination. If they can’t, then you should be hesitant about putting your trust in them. Even the slightest bit of interference with undeclared allergens leads to recalls and consumer backlash.
#3: Ask for the Right Proof of Certification
One very quick way to evaluate whether or not a supplier is doing the right things is to ask about certifications like GFSI, BRC, SQF and others. While certification alone doesn’t tell you what’s going on, it does let you know that they’ve done enough to be approved by accrediting organizations that make it their job to certify suppliers.
The key here is to require and document proof of certification. Blue Sky Leisure, a family owned group of businesses in Britain, has learned the importance of this firsthand. Just ask Blue Sky’s in-house safety officer who’s uncovered some interesting claims in the past.
“For instance, there have been occasions where suppliers claim they have accreditation or that they supply major supermarket chains, but with a little investigation it’s apparent that something doesn’t add up. It’s very easy for a business to say ‘yes, we do all of these things,’ but you have to be robust and you have to check their robustness.”
Conducting a Supply Chain Audit
While you may be ready to commit to robust vetting of suppliers moving forward, how comfortable are you with your current suppliers? Have you taken much time to evaluate them, or do you continue to rely solely on them? It’s absolutely imperative that you actively monitor your supply chain in order to help you avoid food safety crises in the future. You can do this via regular supply chain audits.
FoodLogiQ has partnered with food audit professionals WQS Food Verification to help address this issue. “It really is an amazing tool that will allow us to capture audits on a mobile device in the field, sync them with our customer’s FoodLogiQ Connect community and give our customers complete visibility into the status of the audits, and certification process we are conducting for them,” said Matt Regusci, WQS COO and Director of Business Development. “We’re excited to be working with FoodLogiQ to make the chaotic global supply chain more organized and transparent.”
Meticulous vetting of new suppliers, along with strategic auditing of existing suppliers, leaves little room for error. Sure, safety issues can still arise, but you’re greatly diminishing risk by taking such a careful approach.
Put FoodLogiQ to Use
Food safety, traceability, and sustainability are all very important things, but we would be remiss not to mention the fact that each of these areas traditionally calls for a lot of time and money. As a result, some businesses shy away from big investments and take their chances. But what these businesses are missing is a resource that allows them to achieve supply chain visibility in a timely and cost-effective manner.
At FoodLogiQ, we believe in helping our clients gain better visibility into the tasks and processes that really matter such as supplier verification and quality incidents. With our solutions, you can cut the time it takes you to manage suppliers in half and enhance visibility into various safety and quality issues in your supply chain. This results in fewer food recalls and a superior commitment to food safety.