Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Supply chain issues also affect food quality and safety

Port congestion and freight delays do not only affect how much food is shipped, but also how safe it is to eat once it arrives.

Supply chain issues also affect food quality and safety, and is not just only about food shortages.

The fact that foods are not delivered as swiftly means that there is a bigger chance for the outbreak of food-borne illnesses and contamination.

Food manufacturers and retailers are struggling to deal with the ripple effects of the lockdown in Shanghai due to Covid-19, trade disruptions in the Black Sea region due to the war in Ukraine, fuel price shocks and widespread port congestion and freight delays.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that as many as one in ten people globally, or 600 million individuals, fall ill each year after eating contaminated food.

This number could skyrocket without the necessary food management controls.

ALSO READ: SA’s economy won’t grow before supply chain challenges are addressed

Supply chain issues and traceability

Containers with food often have to wait on trucks or ports to be shipped, raising concerns about food quality and safety, as well as placing newfound emphasis on traceability systems.

Due to growing pressure on the industry, the global food traceability market is expected to grow by an annual average of 9.3% over the next three years, reaching a total value of some R325 billion by 2025.

“There is a saying in the investment world that, when the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked. Likewise, in the food industry, it has never been more important for manufacturers and producers to be able to track and monitor ingredients every step of the way to ensure consumer health and safety,” says Arnold Prinsloo, CEO of Eskort.

“As businesses, traceability offers the opportunity to help protect public health and reduce food waste by creating more agile and responsive food systems. This in turn works to safeguard brand reputations and build consumer loyalty.”

He says traceability also optimises supply chains through measuring food losses and identifying weaknesses in supply chains to significantly reduce the risk of food safety issues or product recalls, while also enhancing efficiency, a win-win for consumers and companies.

ALSO READ: The broken links in the global supply chain

Food safety and traceability

Prinsloo explains that Eskort’s own systems demonstrate the level of detail demanded by well-constructed traceability systems.

The company’s own systems were designed to monitor the smallest possible batches which are allocated unique serial numbers.

This code captures a range of details, such as the individuals responsible for packing product boxes, the time boxes were packed, the individual raw materials used and the origins of the raw materials.

This enables Eskort to trace the meat it uses all the way back to the individual pigs raised on specific farms.

According to Prinsloo, where many companies take a broader approach by allocating a week’s production to a batch, Eskort’s batches are deliberately smaller to ensure greater product control.

“This investment not only means greater food safety benefits for customers, but also reduces overall risk in terms of possible recalls.” 

Eskort also prevents any risk of cross-contamination between suppliers and farms, with trucks from different farms prohibited from entering its manufacturing premises at the same time. Trucks are also disinfected before entering or leaving.

ALSO READ: China lockdown of 9 million citizens implemented as Covid-19 spreads

Other food safety measures

Other safety measures consist of:

  • strict compliance with Pork 360 standards for improving animal welfare and enhancing biosecurity throughout value chains
  • adherence to the FSSC 22000 international food management system accreditation that includes strict requirements for environmental and product testing, record-keeping, temperature controls, fraud prevention and product tampering protections
  • an onsite laboratory for daily environmental testing
  • raw material samples sent to an external laboratory for independent verification.

“All proteins need to be tested before use to prevent food fraud and both our plants are under full camera surveillance. The costs involved are considerable, but absolute transparency and safety is make or break for food brands,” Prinsloo says.

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