Crossroads 2016: The Food Industry’s Visibility Challenge

Crossroads 2016: The Food Industry’s Visibility Challenge


Complex food supply chains can be difficult to track.
Complex food supply chains require new approaches to risk management

How does a leading food company such as General Mills improve the visibility of its supply chain? Joel LaFrance, Supply Chain Visibility Lead, General Mills, will explain at the Crossroads 2016 conference, March 23, 2016, at the MIT campus, Cambridge, MA. The full agenda for Crossroads 2016 is available on the event website.

The food industry is responding to consumers who are demanding more information on the food products they buy. Regulators are also paying more attention. Last year the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would remove state-level authority to require companies to show when a food product contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, says Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director of the MIT Responsible Supply Chain Lab. Also, individual states in the U.S. are considering their own GMO legislation.

But the demand for more supply chain transparency is not confined to the GMO controversy. “Recent examples aside from the GMO controversy include worries over fish-product mislabeling and the use of palm oil as an ingredient. And accusations that corporate wrongdoings are buried in supply chains are not limited to food labeling,” says Bateman.

Food contamination is another issue that is attracting attention. Retsef Levi, Professor of Operations Management, Sloan School of Management, will give a global overview of these issues in his Crossroads 2015 talk.

He is researching problems such as the adulteration of food products sourced globally and how to prevent such threats. This can happen as a result of malicious attacks on supplies, bad practice that leads to spoilage, and the actions of unscrupulous suppliers that do not adhere to production standards. As Levi points out, the U.S. government has introduced legislation that puts more responsibility on companies for identifying and countering threats like these.

It is a tough challenge. Keeping tabs on suppliers, especially lower-tier operators, is not easy in any supply chain. But the task is especially difficult in a food supply chain that sources ingredients from multiple suppliers across the globe. Also, suppliers of foods such as poultry and fish operate on thin margins, and can be tempted to cut corners by using illicit substances to maximize production levels. Retsef says that his research shows that the structure and dynamics of these supply chains have an important bearing on the level of risk involved.

“Businesses should understand that pressure to improve supply chain transparency will continue to increase. Companies that respond now can improve their operations and save themselves costly damage to their reputations and business prospects in the future,” says Bateman.

More information on the Crossroads 2016 event including the conference agenda and registration details are available here.




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