A LEADING food safety auditor has pointed the finger at "weak supply chain management" as a cause for the spike in food recalls in Australia.
SAI Global has reported figures that 106 recalls took place in 2018-19, compared with 81 in 2017-18 and 61 in 2016-17.
The organisation, which has audited thousands of food retailers and manufacturers to ensure they comply with food industry regulations, has urged food manufacturers and retailers to put in place robust food safety management systems to reduce supply chain risks.
SAI Global food safety spokesperson, Maidie Wood, said food has never been a more global, fast-moving and complex market than it is today.
- Almond tech wiz wins food safety award
- Food safety guide launched for 2019
- Food safety about more than just "keeping regulators happy"
"When a food crosses borders of any kind, the familiar health and safety risks are joined by several others, including intentional and inadvertent adulteration, product mislabelling, substitution, spoilage due to any unforeseen circumstance, damage while in transit and unpredictable politics and shifts in regulations," Ms Wood said.
"Food manufacturers need to be continually rethinking their controls, monitor their indirect suppliers and implement key performance indicators to manage downstream supply risks."
SAI Global delivered six ways food businesses can reduce food safety risks in their supply chain:
1. Always listen to the consumer: Consumers increasingly care about where their foods come from and are demanding high ethical standards when it comes to the sourcing and manufacturing of food.
2. Use technology to build greater transparency: As technology is connecting food manufacturers and retailers to more suppliers than ever, it is essential they are aware of the risks. The availability of technologies such as sensors to detect temperature changes and smart packaging that changes colour based on expiry dates give manufacturers greater control over potential risks.
3. Set key performance indicators for suppliers: As tracking performance is key to improving it, a good idea is to motivate suppliers to strive for excellence. For instance, high performing suppliers could be awarded for providing the highest quality products, most on-time delivery, and excellent service.
4. Monitor indirect suppliers: It can be a challenge to document the end-to-end supply chain - and manufacturers who can source from anywhere are at greater risk of losing control of their supplier relationships. This is where monitoring of indirect suppliers is important.
5. Implement a supplier diversity management program: Supplier diversity management - the process of creating a diverse supply chain to secure the inclusion of different groups - is an increasing focus among food companies looking to move from the 'preferred supplier' model to a 'multi-supplier' relationship model. Such a program can introduce innovation through new products, services and solutions, and allow a company to explore new opportunities for business expansion.
6. Get food safety training and certification: Although it's a legal requirement that all food handlers in Australia are trained in food safety, more in-depth Food Safety Supervisor training, such as HACCP certification, is best practice but not mandatory. However, the benefits of this training far outweigh the risks.