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Keys to Securing the Food Supply Chain April 13th, 2022

Keys to Securing the Food Supply Chain

Is your business up to the challenge of addressing security for these complex operations?

Whether consumers purchase food at a grocery store or a restaurant, it’s safe to say that the food had to travel some distance to reach the point of sale. And to ensure that food is authentic, fresh and safe for consumption, the food supply chain must follow strict security and quality assurance processes, which are most effectively managed with technology.  

Food Supply Chain Security Challenges and Solutions  

Food supply chain managers must secure food shipments and protect them from threats on several fronts: 

Counterfeit packaged foods 
Specialized foods with protected designation of origin are targets for piracy and substitution with counterfeit products. For example, Italian products, such as Parmesan cheese, or French exports, such as brie or camembert, must be authenticated and secured to maintain consumer trust as well as the economies of the regions that produce them.  22_Honeywell-Mobility-Q1C1-eBook_Mockup-(EN)

Ensuring that packaged foods are authentic begins with farms and production facilities, which must implement solutions to share and collect data, such as barcode technology or RFID. Then, each partner in the supply chain must confirm that the ingredients or products they deliver are authentic – and deploy physical security solutions to protect them.  

Additionally, blockchain technology is emerging as a viable solution for protecting the food supply chain from counterfeit products, creating an immutable, distributed ledger that records SKUs and enables distribution centers, stores – and even consumers – to confirm their authenticity.  

Quality Assurance 
Many foods are perishable or must be stored in specific conditions to avoid spoilage. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors can collect information on foods throughout the supply chain to record temperature, humidity, location and more to ensure quality is preserved during transportation. Additionally, when IoT sensors work with systems that automate condition adjustments, little human intervention is required to protect food safety.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) can also help to ensure food quality. For example, machine vision solutions can inspect foods, finding, for example, the proverbial bad apple that can spoil the whole bunch, much more cost-effectively than using human inspectors. Additionally, machine vision can help manage shipping and receiving by reading barcodes and text labels and ensuring that only authentic, quality foods are heading to consumers.  

Traceability  
Implementing ways to identify specific food products also gives the food supply chain the capability to find products quickly and, if necessary, recall them most efficiently. For example, businesses can recall specific lot or product numbers by pinpointing particular shipments – or even pallets or boxes – rather than conducting large-scale, wasteful recalls. In addition, effective data collection, such as automated systems leveraging RFID labels and readers that don’t require line of sight, and centralized management is essential to the visibility and traceability necessary to track food products down to the carton.  

Farm-to-Fork Transparency  
Producers and distributors can lose visibility after foods arrive at a warehouse, but they’re still responsible for taking action if contamination or other safety issues are suspected. QR codes on the packaging that provide information to grocers, restaurant managers, or consumers about products can provide visibility throughout the supply chain, ensuring that all stakeholders have the information they need about the safety of the foods they are selling, serving or consuming.  

Cybersecurity 
In addition to physically securing the food supply chain, it’s also necessary to protect it from cyberattacks. Unfortunately, there are notable examples of attacks that disrupted food supplies, such as the ransomware attacks on global meat supplier JBS and U.K. wholesaler James Hall in 2021. 

A total food supply chain security solution must address both physical and virtual threats.  

The Challenge to Integrators 

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The food supply chain is complex, often geographically expansive, and requires attention on a macro level as well as to details that can impact individual products. As a result, integrators and software developers must take a holistic view of operations, address the unique needs of  businesses and enterprises, and enable visibility into each part of the journey from farm or production to the consumer. Those that meet these challenges will deliver the most value to their clients and the safest foods to consumers.  

 

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