The recent occurrence of tainted meat in China highlights the ongoing challenge of ensuring oversight and quality in food supply chains. An agreement signed in late July between a U.S. university and a food safety research center in China should help expand efforts to increase food safety in China and worldwide.
The agreement between the University of California Davis and China’s Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University in Shaanxi province lays the groundwork for the establishment of the Sino-U.S. Joint Research Center for Food Safety in China. The signing of the agreement coincided with the tainted meat scare in China earlier this summer when investigators found that expired or rotten meat from Shanghai Husi Food Company had been incorporated into chicken products and beef patties that were the used by several fast-food restaurants in China, including McDonald’s, KFC, and others. Several news organizations have reported that Chinese investigators seized 100 tons of meat products and inspected hundreds of facilities.
The incident underscores the challenges of managing a safe supply chain of food in international markets such as China, says Keri Dawson, vice president of industry solutions at MetricStream in Palo Alto, Calif. As food and beverage companies expand their supply chains and operations around the globe, those with multiple tiers of suppliers “have become increasingly vulnerable,” she says.
MetricStream’s technology helps organizations streamline, automate, and monitor aspects of food quality and safety management, with a centralized, web-based repository to manage supplier information. Being able to accurately and quickly identify the source of a food quality or safety issue is a major challenge for food manufacturers today, Dawson says.
When organizations adopt an automated food quality and safety system, they can better manage end-to-end food quality, safety and compliance processes across the supply chain. “Workflow-based solutions can help streamline key processes and eliminate silos by integrating product and supplier information, regulatory requirements, risks, audit initiatives, issues, and corrective actions,” Dawson says.
Developing a strong supplier governance program, supported by sophisticated technology, can help prevent damaging supply chain incidents that can forever damage reputation, result in financial losses, and even lead to regulatory action, she says.
Robert Beachy, executive director of the UC Davis World Food Center, says that the new food safety center to be established as part of the agreement with the Chinese university should have “significant impacts on food safety in China and elsewhere around the globe.”
As a result of this recent food safety scare in China, five fast food chains, including McDonald’s, have published details of their suppliers on their Chinese websites in an effort to strengthen oversight of food suppliers.