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Nestle Reiterates That Traceability is Key to Food Safety

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Our European based and other readers are probably very aware of the news last week that Swiss frozen foods producer Findus was forced to recall its beef lasagna products in the United Kingdom after it was determined the product contained horse meat. This is not exactly a savory development, to state the least, and British and European media have been quick to call more oversight in food product quality.

In the wake of this development, global consumer goods provider Nestle indicated that it has intensified the screening of and traceability of its food products. Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke indicated to business media that the horsemeat scandal will affect the entire industry even though Nestle product is not directly involved. In a Financial Times interview, Bulcke noted: ā€œWe check our suppliers very carefully, and of course, when something like this happens we intensify our procedures. But everything under our labels is not affected.ā€

Of course, every CEO of a consumer goods company wants to insure traceability across the supply chain but then again, how many have funded the proper tools and resources to insure such traceability? Once more, when the threat of acquisition and cost cutting looms large, will traceability needs see the light of day?

As investigations related to the European horse meat scandal run their course, companies may again discover that traceability and conformance extends to the lowest tiers of the supply chain. It is not about a primary supplier attesting to product conformity, but the supplier to that primary supplier. The rub often comes when negotiating supply contracts, when the customer refuses to acknowledge the need for added costs to insure product traceability and quality conformance.

In many of our past Supply Chain Matters commentaries related to specific food or drug product recalls, a common pattern is the eventual breakdown in quality conformance monitoring, latency in detecting unusual patterns, and waiting too late before a governmental regulator forces a product recall. In the specific prior case of the numerous Johnson & Johnson product recalls, an internal audit pointed to cuts in key quality conformance resources as the catalyst.

Many companies have painfully discovered that indeed, traceability is the key to food safety as well as protecting the brand. Europe now has a pointed reminder to that principle.

Bob Ferrari

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  1. Bob Ferrari says:

    Hello Everyone,

    Unfortunately, we have to add this postscript comment to our above commentary on Nestle. In the commentary, we echoed the statement from Nestle’s CEO indicating that none of Nestle’s products were implicated in the European horse meat incidents.

    Today, the Associated Press is reporting that Nestle has now become the latest victim of the ongoing horse meat incidents, having to pull some of its products off European shelves. After conducting two days of tests last week, Nestle detected horse meat DNA in two products made from beef from one of its suppliers. The levels detected were above the one percent threshold mandated by the U.K. Food Safety Agency, and thus the products in question have been recalled.

    Nestle insisted that its other products distributed within Europe and the U.S. were safe to consume. The company increased its surveillance after last month’s reports of mislabeled products being sold in the U.K.

    The takeaway of this postscript remains ever more pertinent- traceability is the key to food safety. One the world’s largest and most recognizable food brands has now discovered first-hand how important that capability may be. Cudos to Nestle’s internal management teams on their openness to take the necessary steps.

    Bob Ferrari