Don’t Let Your Supply Chain Give You Shell Shock

This guest post comes to us from Daniel Ball, director at Wax Digital. 

Just as the 2013 horsemeat scandal was becoming a distant memory, supermarkets have once again had a tough reminder of the need to tighten up supply chain compliancy. The recent case of Fipronil being found in products containing egg, and several UK supermarkets having to recall certain products as a result, has made many retailers sit up and think about the visibility of their own supply chains. While it’s not known to have harmed consumers, cases like this put a brand’s valuable reputation on the line, and highlight the need for retailers to dig deeper when auditing their supply chain processes.

While the retailers involved will have had sound food quality assurance processes and audits in place, the egg crisis highlights that these processes don’t go far enough. Grocers may thoroughly audit their own top-tier suppliers, but how many take auditing processes any further? In this egg case, it was the supermarket’s suppliers’ suppliers who were at fault, as a poultry farm cleaning company was allegedly using the substance when servicing farms. That’s why it’s key to gain visibility of the whole supply chain including making sure that your suppliers’ suppliers meet all regulatory requirements.

A supply chain that is compliant with regulation is all well and good, but retailers should beware of loopholes that might cause them to cut corners. When it comes to raw eggs still in their shells, retailers only sell those that are sourced in the UK; essentially nearshoring your supply chain to reduce risk. The products recalled in this egg crisis were egg sandwiches and salads, in which egg was a component, and sourced overseas. Products that contain multiple components will of course have a more complex supply chain, thereby adding complexity to the auditing process. The egg saga reminds us why compliancy checks should be just as stringent for a food item that is part of another product (e.g. a salad or a sandwich) as they are when they are sold on their own.

While it’s not had the same furore as the horsemeat scandal, the egg crisis has highlighted that even some of the UK’s biggest retailers need to make supply chain auditing more rigorous. Businesses shouldn’t see it as purely the supplier’s responsibility to ensure compliancy, and should make proven safe and legal supply chain processes a prerequisite to working with them. Regardless of the end product, businesses should ensure that the audit trail is applied widely and that it incorporates any supplier that comes into contact with the end product. The egg crisis shows the dangers of deviating from strict compliancy checks on occasions when the need appears less significant, like when a product is a component of something else.

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