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Eating Healthfully and Safely

Friday January 22, 2016
APICS-Supply-Chain-Management-NowIce cream, cucumbers, chicken salad, and burritos are just some of the foods blamed for causing illnesses and deaths in the United States in the last year. The media and public attention to food safety calls to light important and unique aspects of the food supply chain. Earlier this month, The Washington Post drew attention to the topic in “‘What Can We Do Better?’ Trying to Make the Nation’s Food Safer in 2016.”

In his article, Brady Dennis asks, “Are we really getting better at preventing foodborne illnesses, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] sicken about 48 million Americans each year and kill roughly 3,000?” His answer: “Maybe.” 

The CDC reports that there were 120 multi-state outbreaks involving foodborne illnesses between 2010 and 2014. However, Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at the Pew Charitable Trusts, suggests that the outbreaks don’t mean more people are getting sick. Instead, technology enables better and faster detection of pathogens and their sources.

One aspect of US food safety rests with the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which aims to ensure a safe US food supply by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. Dennis reports that although the law was signed in 2011, the FDA only recently has begun interpreting it into actual regulations. “The measures include ensuring that U.S. food manufacturers have detailed plans to prevent possible contamination risks in their production facilities, establishing new standards for growing and packing produce and requiring U.S. importers to verify the safety of their foreign suppliers,” he writes.

At the forefront of these issues is the Global Cold Chain Alliance (GCCA), which serves as the focused voice of the cold chain industry and represents 1,300 member companies in more than 65 countries. Corey Rosenbusch, CAE, is the president and CEO. He says the alliance’s member organizations, which are mostly third-party logistics (3PL) providers, strive to become integrated, strategic partners with their customers, which include food manufacturers.

“We work with our members and their customers to provide a value-added service that goes beyond price, price, price,” Rosenbusch says. GCCA members ensure their partners can navigate and comply with all federal regulations, and GCCA members add transparency and traceability to overall supply chains. “Our core competency is making sure temperatures are maintained throughout every link in the supply chain,” Rosenbusch says.

Beneficial partnerships and alliances

Consider the following definition of “cold chain” from the APICS Dictionary, 14th Edition: “A term referring to the storage, transfer, and supply chain of temperature-controlled products. Industries in the cold chain include food and agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals.” 

As you and your company move forward in this increasingly complex business environment, I urge you to contemplate the core competencies of your supply chain partners, such as your 3PL providers. How can you more effectively work together to overcome challenges? On the APICS side, we have resources you can turn to, including this APICS magazine article about FSMA. I am exploring further collaboration with the GCCA. I look forward to reporting more on this.
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