Where’s the Beef and how do we trace it?

January 21st, 2010

The most recent beef recall suggests the struggles we face with a traceable supply chain.

A recent beef recall reported in the USA TODAY on January 20th indicated that 864,000 pounds of beef have been recalled by a Southern California based meat packing company because it might contain e.coli. The good news is that this occurrence was caught during a food safety inspection. This means that sometimes the systems we have in place work. So kudos’s to those that are doing their jobs on behalf of public interest.

What the above situation does not suggest is the problem associated with recalls and the role that traceability in the supply chain plays. Although there has been a lot of work done over the last couple of years, the accepted standard in traceability continues to be one forward one back. That means we require knowing where the meat packing company got their meat from and who they sold it to. In the USA TODAY article it suggested that  the meat was distributed to distribution centers, restaurants and hotels in California for a 3 month period in 2008 and a 10 day period during 2010. The question this begs is where did those organizations distribute the product to and can they recall it if the product even still exists. The act of a recall can be both good and bad. Hopefully it is good for the consumer. It is however never good for the distributor since they already paid for the product. It may however improve their reputation with their customers as a quality company.

What this short article suggests is that safety inspections need to be carried out on schedule and resulting recalls have to be executed quickly to all destination points in the supply chain. This clearly requires better than one forward one back accountability and is what all procurement solution providers should be striving for with their data sources.

We look forward to and appreciate your comments.

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