Providing warehousing and logistics services in the food and beverage industry isn't an easy task. With just-in-time supply chains serving food to many of the 7.7 billion of us, smooth operations are critical to the delivery of safe food.
Most modern storage and distribution companies understand their role in food safety. Logistics leaders know about the BRCGS Global Standard for Storage and Distribution, and how compliance to it assures their food and beverage customers that they know what they’re doing when it comes to hazard and risk analysis, facility management and good operating practices. However, more recently storage and distribution companies, especially those operating in the cold chain, are looking to demonstrate their understanding of food safety to their customers.
ISO 22000 is one of the most commonly implemented food safety management systems (FSMS). It can be used by food companies of all sizes and provides a greater understanding of food safety risks from farm to fork, including in the storage and distribution industry.
The aim of all food safety management systems is to promote good hygiene and prevent incidents that make food commodities or products dangerous for humans and animals to eat. A good FSMS will embed a proactive approach to prevention. Companies involved in the storage, distribution or transport of food must focus on five key issues.
1. Temperature management – Transporting refrigerated, frozen and hot foods poses a challenge to food carriers. Often temperatures aren’t clearly defined in specifications. That’s where the ATP agreements (formally the Agreement on the International Carriage of Perishable Foodstuffs) come in. They refer to a 1970 United Nations treaty that established standards for the international transport of perishable food.
Amended many times, it takes into account the type of food being transported and the distance it must travel. It mandates the type of equipment used to transport perishable food across borders and how often that equipment must be inspected.
For the management of refrigerated transport and temperatures, PAS 1018: 2017 can be useful. Measuring instruments should comply with the BS EN 12830, BS EN 13485 and BS EN 13486 standards.
2. Food defence – In the same way that public venues such as stadiums and airports must be protected, the security of the food supply chain must be defended from intentional attacks.
Attacks can come from disgruntled employees, vandals or bioterrorists in the form of contamination using chemicals, biological agents or other harmful substances. Whether the goal is to kill people or ruin a particular business, a terrorist’s acts can be difficult to detect and even harder to predict.
A food protection system not only defends the health of consumers but also the reputation of the businesses involved in the production of that food. PAS 96:2017 is a useful tool for implementing a food defence plan to:
- Identify potential types of threats and attackers
- Prioritize threats to be addressed
- Determine critical controls required to mitigate threats
- Add rigor to incident response strategies
3. Food fraud – Food storage and distribution companies must help prevent the deliberate substitution, tampering or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients and food packaging for economic gain. A high potential for economic gain plus the low risk of consequence or discovery create a tempting recipe for food fraud.
Some examples include horse meat found blended into beef, high-fructose corn syrup in honey and seed oil diluting extra virgin olive oil.
The ultimate goal is not to reactively catch a fraudulent product, but to have proactive systems preventing the product from being exposed to adulteration in the first place. The importance of this issue is highlighted by the Knowledge Centre for Food Fraud and Quality- set up by the European Commission. Supply chain management tools such as SCREEN (Supply Chain Risk Exposure Network) help organizations horizon scan and highlight local and global risks.
Organizations in the food industry often use Vulnerability Assessment and Critical Control Points (TACCP and VACCP respectively) to manage these kinds of risks, and PAS 96:2017 Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack is often cited as a helpful resource in managing risk in this area. BS 10501:2014 Guide to implementing procurement fraud controls can also be considered as a help to manage procurement fraud.
4. Business continuity – What is business continuity? Simply put, it’s the ability to keep doing business even when something goes wrong. Being able to react decisively during an incident can help lessen its impact. It allows organizations to remain on the market, be competitive, add value to their products, guarantee contracts for long periods and be able to respond to incidents with preparation and readiness.
Good business continuity practices can also help protect the clients of storage and distribution companies. When incidents during holding or shipping are managed effectively and efficiently, the brand and the business of the seller and buyer is also protected. An organization with an FSMS compliant with ISO 22000:2018 clause 8.4 (Emergency preparedness and response) should be on their way to meeting these needs. For organizations that want embed robust business continuity practices, there are additional standards to consider, including:
The BSI article ‘Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail - Business Continuity Management in the Food Industry’ provides more detail on this pressing issue.
5. Sustainable business practices- Most commercial companies have a larger negative impact on the environment than the average person. However, the nature of cold chain distribution means that energy usage can be a real concern when running industrial refrigeration and HGV’s.
Specific standards that can help companies to improve environmental performance include ISO 50001 Energy Management and ISO 14001 Environmental Management. These standards, along with ISO 22000, have been written using the same structure making it easier to integrate them which can help your business improve its Organizational Resilience.
A comprehensive food safety management system includes processes and procedures to assess, identify, evaluate and control food safety hazards.
ISO 22000:2018 helps organizations achieve this using a risk-based approach that, ultimately, reduces the risk to their businesses, brands and customers.