An approach to evaluate and manage supply chain risk

Friends of ours were over for dinner last night and the matron is doing some sort of business education upgrade to prepare for the future.

Her research topic is supply-chain management within her firm, so I sent her this from David Acheson and Jennifer McEntire of The Acheson Group (TAG):

supply.chain.risks.oct.14In today’s food and beverage industry, everyone has a supply chain that they rely on. And with that comes risk.  You may be staking your brand reputation on the quality and safety of products or ingredients you are sourcing from somewhere that is not under your direct control. In short, you are relying on someone else to do things right, and inheriting risk if they don’t. Congress recognized that sometimes you rely on suppliers to control risk, which puts supplier management into the bucket of a “preventive control” and thus part of the Food Safety Modernization Act

But the road doesn’t end at regulatory compliance. Food professionals often worry about their supply chain, so much that it provokes many sleepless nights for executive leaders.  Why? Because no matter how many suppliers you have, their operations are not under your direct control. Again, you rely on a third party to make regulatory and ethical decisions in relation to your product, and ultimately, your brand. You rely on them to do the right thing.  And let’s face it—sometimes people just don’t. That’s why The Acheson Group (TAG) has developed an approach that goes beyond a “one size fits all” practice of asking for a certificate of analysis (COA) and an audit report.  With those two boxes checked we feel good about our suppliers and can relax – right?  Wrong!

Clearly the extent of the risk to you from your supply chain is dependent on many factors, some of which directly relate to what you do with the ingredients or products once received.  For example, if you are making a cooked product, then you worry less about microbiological contaminants in your externally sourced ingredients being used in your cooked product.  However, depending upon the region from which they are sourced, you may need to be concerned about heavy metals in those same ingredients since the cooking step will do nothing to mitigate the risks from heavy metals or other chemical contaminants.

One is often faced with the question of how to manage complex supply chains in a way that does not break the bank.  Like most things related to food safety, the logical approach to controlling the supply chain is a risk-based approach.  In simple terms, this means asking yourself, “Which of my suppliers are ones that I consider to be high risk?”  Many in the food world do this type of mental exercise on a regular basis, but typically it is somewhat ad hoc, based on instinct, the result of a group brainstorm, and not fact-based, objective or consistent.  The reliance on “gut feel” doesn’t generally cut it when trying to secure the resources to manage that risk. And it’s not going to satisfy FDA either, which proposes that the evaluation of supplier risk (assessed through regulatory compliance, your history with them, and other factors) be documented when suppliers are controlling hazards – whether through the Preventive Controls rule or as part of Foreign Supplier Verification.

As you think about how to balance your resources with your risk, it becomes evident that the need for metrics to quantify supply chain risk is an effective approach.  One of the tactics we have taken at TAG is to incorporate this mindset through a logical extension of these challenges and develop an approach that analyzes supply chain risk from two dimensions. The first dimension is to determine the inherent risk of the product or the ingredient.  Clearly some products have more inherent risk than others. For example, leafy greens are generally considered to be a higher risk than a dry powder.  As a result, our approach has been to develop a series of questions, the answers to which each carry a score that then allows you to quantify the inherent risk of a given product or ingredient.  By going through this process with all the products you use, it is possible to then rank the products numerically by risk.

The second dimension to this process is to follow the same steps for each supplier.  Referring to the earlier example, a leafy green supplier may have implemented robust good agricultural practices and be ahead of the game in relation to on-farm risk control.  Another supplier of leafy greens may be adequate, but have a few areas in which there is opportunity for improvement. In this situation, while the inherent product risk is the same for the leafy greens product itself, the actions and controls put in place by different suppliers will lead to differing risks and consequences for the same product.  By again asking a series of customizable questions and placing scores on each answer, you can then rank supplier risk over a wide range of variables.  Much like the product-risk scoring explained earlier, you can then rank the suppliers numerically by risk.

The next part of this process is to match the product with the supplier by comparing the two ranked lists (product ranking and supplier ranking). By going through this process, it is possible to identify the high-risk products with the high-risk suppliers, thus identifying your greatest supply chain vulnerabilities.

This process will allow the application of objective, standardized, and consistent metrics to supply chain risk and rank product-supplier combinations in terms of high to low risk.  But, that is only the first step! Because critical questions have been assigned to both the product and the supplier, it is then appropriate to look at which questions drove the score high and thus develop a risk management strategy that is focused on fixing and mitigating the problem.   For example, if a supplier is scoring high due to the lack of a robust environmental control program or allergen control program, you can address that deficiency specifically with the supplier and thus reduce your risks. This tool allows you to capture not only the identity of the risk, but how to apply resources to eliminate the risk.

Despite all the benefits listed above, the overall value of this approach is to allow your firm to have a tangible, objective method to leverage metrics in driving the decision-making process. It will allow your company to defend why resources need to be directed to certain areas of supply chain risk control.   Another advantage of this approach is that it is possible over time to monitor improvement in risks through the overall reduction in scores.   However, even as overall risk scores drop, product-supplier combinations that reveal the highest risk when compared to the other groupings are still visible, allowing the firm to concentrate new efforts upon driving down risk even further.

In today’s cost-conscious environment, the more we can use technology to drive risk-based decisions, the better we will be able to manage those risks, and successfully!  It has been TAG’s experience that some of the most sophisticated, global food companies struggle more with supply chain risk uncertainties than any other challenge. Perhaps the driver of this worry is the fact that the supply chain is viewed as an “accepted” risk, or maybe because the system itself is so large and cumbersome it seems too difficult to control.  Our philosophy is to help companies understand how to get their arms around the challenge of supply chain risk and to make wise use of limited resources, and thus, we have developed this tool to achieve just that.

Irrespective of whether or not your brand is a household name, you have customers who rely on the safety of your product and expect good quality.  In real terms, when your suppliers let you down and you don’t catch the problem — or you do, but you don’t intervene — you may then be, in reality, not just letting your customers down but your company as well. Thus, managing supply chain risk is not only a forthcoming regulatory requirement, it’s what you need to do to protect your brand.


Good Ebola (and foodborne illness) advice: don’t eat poop

We used to use don’t eat poop as a secondary barfblog tagline. Then it was don’t eat uncooked poop.  New York TV, anchor Errol Louis of NY1 has resurrected the advice in reference to the city’s first Ebola case:

If you came across some strange mucus or feces or something out there on the street, on the subway, or anywhere else, don’t eat it. Don’t let it get into your body, don’t touch it.

Good call.


And so it goes: at least 6 sick from Salmonella in frozen chicken thingies in Minn

State health and agriculture officials said today that six recent cases of salmonellosis in Minnesota have been linked to raw, frozen, breaded and pre-browned, stuffed chicken entrees. The implicated product is Antioch Farms brand A La Kiev raw stuffed chicken breast with a U.S. Department of Agriculture stamped cFunkyChickenHiode of P-1358. This product is sold at many different grocery store chains. Investigators from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) determined that six cases of Salmonella infection from August and September 2014 were due to the same strain of Salmonella Enteritidis. One person was hospitalized for their illness. “Our DNA fingerprinting found that the individuals were sickened by the same strain of Salmonella,” said Dr. Carlota Medus, epidemiologist for the Foodborne Diseases Unit at MDH. “The Minnesota Department of Agriculture collected samples of the same type of product from grocery stores and the outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in packages of this product.” There have been six outbreaks of salmonellosis in Minnesota linked to these types of products from 1998 through 2008. This is the first outbreak since improvements were made in 2008 to the labeling of these products. The current labels clearly state that the product is raw.  Salmonella is sometimes present in raw chicken, which is why it is important for consumers to follow safe food-handling practices. This includes cooking all raw poultry products to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit. “The problem arises when consumers don’t realize that they are handling and preparing a raw product,” according to Dr. Carrie Rigdon, an investigator for the MDA Dairy and Food Inspection Division. MDA and MDH officials advised that consumers with these products in their freezers, if they choose to use them, should cook them thoroughly. Other important food handling practices include hand washing before and after handling raw meat, keeping raw and cooked foods separate to avoid cross-contamination, and placing cooked meat on a clean plate or platter before serving. Consumers can find more information about safe food-handling practices on the MDH website at: Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramps and fever. Symptoms usually begin within 12 to 72 hours after exposure, but can begin up to a week after exposure. Salmonella infections usually resolve in 5 to 7 days, but approximately 20 percent of cases require hospitalization. In rare cases, Salmonella infection can lead to death, particularly in the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

Direct video observation of adults and tweens cooking raw frozen chicken thingies 01.nov.09
 British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929 
Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820
 Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.
 Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior. chicken.thingies.raw.cook
Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors. 
Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Who knew the Sergeant-at-Arms actually had a gun? In Canada?

I spoke with my mother today, and she didn’t know; I spoke with Chapman, and he didn’t know; I didn’t know but I do know that to enter buildings at Kansas State University, I’m told by a sign with the same effectiveness as, “Employees Must Their Hands” that firearms are not allowed in university buildings.
sorenne.hockeyAs two ex-pat Canadians, me and Chapman both have had this weird dissonance of being Canadian, but with Chapman in North Carolina and me in Australia, we just needed to talk it through.

Sieve Souilere, my goaltending enemy/partner to Porous Powell back when we were 12-years-old or so, aptly cited Valdy today:

“Canadians are Polite. We take poking and prodding with a smile. However, if you poke and prod us one too many times, you find out there’s a hockey player in every one of  them.”

That’s why my five girls play hockey.

North Carolina firm recalls Serrano peppers

A 2008 Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak initially thought to be solely tomatoes was eventually linked to  a couple of types of peppers. According to a 2011 paper published by the investigation team  raw tomato-containing dishes (like salsa) were linked to three clusters of illnesses but jalapeño peppers at a shipper in Texas and agricultural water and Serrano peppers on a Mexican farm were all found to contain the outbreak strain.

Peppers hadn’t been implicated as a vehicle for illness in an outbreak until then. Since then buyers (like retailers and food service firms) have increased focus on all fresh produce – and have increased product testing. So have state health officials.220px-Serranochilis

According to a press release posted at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website,

A random sample was taken by the Michigan Department of Agriculture on October 13, 2014 from a warehouse in Lansing, Michigan. Bailey Farms, Inc. received notice that the sample tested positive for Salmonella on October 20, 2014.

Bailey Farms, Inc. of Oxford, NC is voluntarily recalling 6,215 pounds of Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.
The Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers was distributed to Meijer, Inc. and customers may have purchased this product from October 14th to October 19th at Meijer stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
In addition this product was distributed to Publix Super Markets Inc., Merchants Distributors, Inc., Walmart, Food Lion, Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, US Foods, Military Produce Group, LLC.,C&S Wholesalers, John Vena, Inc. and Harris Teeter. Consumers who suspect they may have purchased Fresh Serrano Chile Peppers from the above listed companies between the dates of October 2, 2014 to October 21, 2014 should check with the above listed companies to verify if the product was subject to recall.
This recall is the result of the possibility that the remainder of these lots could be contaminated with this bacteria. We are working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to investigate the root cause of the potential contamination.
No illnesses have been reported/linked to this recall.

Chef at New Jersey restaurant who spit into patron’s food fired

A chef at Kennedy’s Pub who allegedly spit into a meal that a man sent back for additional cooking was fired immediately after the incident occurred, according to a report.

goodfellasMount Olive police responded to the Route 46 restaurant on Sunday evening after an employee contacted authorities to report that 32-year-old John Stagg spat onto a patron’s dinner the prior night.

He was charged with tampering with a food or drug product, as well as disorderly conduct, and released with a court date. The customer, a 51-year-old Lake Hopactong man, was contacted by police and notified of what happened to his food, police said.

Stagg was terminated after authorities’ investigation confirmed he’d spat in the meal, according to the Daily Record. 

Wash hands, sick (and non-sick?) workers stay home: 278 sickened in Norovirus outbreak at Shanghai boarding school, 2012

Researchers conclude in BMC Public Health that this Norovirus outbreak could be limited by good hygiene, daily disinfection and “excluding asymptomatic food handlers from food preparation.”

NorochickI’m not sure how that would work, but based on fecal swabs, nine were Norovirus-positive in asymptomatic food preparers.

Here’s the abstract:

More than 200 students and teachers at a boarding school in Shanghai developed acute gastroenteritis in December, 2012. The transmission mode remained largely unknown.
An immediate epidemiological investigation was conducted to identify it.

Methods: Using a retrospective cohort design, we investigated demographic characteristics, school environment, and previous contacts with people who had diarrhea and/or vomiting, drinking water conditions, recalls of food consumption in the school cafeteria, hand-washing habits and eating habits. Rectal swabs of the new cases and food handlers as well as water and food samples were collected to test potential bacteria and viruses. Norovirus was detected by real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Results: A total of 278 cases developed gastrointestinal symptoms in this outbreak, and the overall attack rate was 13.9%. The main symptoms included vomiting (50.0%), abdominal cramps (40.3%), nausea (27.0%), diarrhea (6.8%) and fever (6.8%).
Twenty rectal swab samples were detected as Norovirus-positive, including 11 from student cases and 9 from asymptomatic food handlers (non-cases). Among environmental surface samples from the kitchen, 8 samples were also detected as Norovirus-positive.
The genotypes of viral strains were the same (GII) in patients, asymptomatic food handlers and environmental surfaces. Other samples, including rectal swabs, water samples and food samples were negative for any bacteria and other tested viruses.
Asymptomatic food handlers may have contaminated the cooked food during the food preparation.

Conclusion: The study detected that the outbreak was caused by Norovirus and should be controlled by thorough disinfection and excluding asymptomatic food handlers from food preparation. Early identification of the predominant mode of transmission in this outbreak was necessary to prevent new cases.
Furthermore, good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and efficient daily disinfection should be promoted to prevent such infection and outbreaks.

Author: Caoyi XueYifei FuWeiping ZhuYi FeiLinying ZhuHong ZhangLifeng PanHongmei XuYong WangWenqin WangQiao Sun

Credits/Source: BMC Public Health 2014, 14:1092

More demand for restaurant inspection info

From San Jose to South Australia, locals are adopting restaurant inspection disclosure or grading programs to inform diners of recent ratings.

scores_doors_featureBeginning in Jan. 2016, San Jose restaurants will adopt the Toronto-like green-yellow-red display system.

In the state of South Australia (that’s where Adelaide is) 10 local Councils have signed up to a voluntary Scores on Doors Pilot Program that will test a new Food Safety Rating scheme for cafes, restaurants and pubs.

Director of Food Safety and Nutrition at SA Health, Fay Jenkins said food safety rating schemes were used all over the world to help consumers make informed choices about where they decided to buy their food.

“Customers have a right to know that the food they buy has been stored in a clean, safe environment and prepared by people with the appropriate food handling skills,” Dr Jenkins said.

“South Australian businesses can start displaying a star rating, calculated using the results of their routine food safety inspection undertaken by local Councils throughout the pilot program,” she said.

“Encouraging businesses to display their star rating aims to improve standards in the food service industry and will also help to improve public health by reducing the risk of food poisoning.”


Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009.

The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information.

Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.


The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.


Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2011. Designing a national restaurant inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Journal of Food Protection 74(11): 1869-1874

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from contaminated food or water each year, and up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food service facilities. The aim of restaurant inspections is to reduce foodborne outbreaks enhance consumer confidence in food service. Inspection disclosure systems have been developed as tools for consumers and incentives for food service operators. Disclosure systems are common in developed countries but are inconsistently used, possibly because previous research has not determined the best format for disclosing inspection results. This study was conducted to develop a consistent, compelling, and trusted inspection disclosure system for New Zealand. Existing international and national disclosure systems were evaluated. Two cards, a letter grade (A, B, C, or F) and a gauge (speedometer style), were designed to represent a restaurant’s inspection result and were provided to 371 premises in six districts for 3 months. Operators (n = 269) and consumers (n = 991) were interviewed to determine which card design best communicated inspection results. Less than half of the consumers noticed cards before entering the premises; these data indicated that the letter attracted more initial attention (78%) than the gauge (45%). Fifty-eight percent (38) of the operators with the gauge preferred the letter; and 79% (47) of the operators with letter preferred the letter. Eighty-eight percent (133) of the consumers in gauge districts preferred the letter, and 72% (161) of those in letter districts preferring the letter. Based on these data, the letter method was recommended for a national disclosure system for New Zealand.

US pro football player barfs on field before play

I loved playing linebacker in high-school football.

After all those years of kids shooting pucks at my head covered only with a lousy plastic face mass as a goalie in hockey, it was somehow, equitable.

Lawrence Timmons.vomitI never barfed during a football game (but did before hockey games).

I was watching the Pittsburg Steelers-Houston Texans football game Tuesday morning (Monday night football across the pond) in the background as Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons starting barfing before a play in the second quarter.

Down 13-0, Timmons lined up in his usual spot at inside linebacker when he began to vomit before the snap.

As Timmons jogged off the field he continued to vomit, grossing out the Monday night audience.

Some fans even posted a Vine of Timmons getting sick, just in case you missed the chance to be grossed out.

As for Steeler fans, things got better as they erased a 13-0 deficit and won 30-23.