Disasters cause secondary effects everywhere, as we see right now with COVID-19 and its impact on the food supply chain. When we consider supply chain disruption, we need to consider multiple factors.
The current situation is what experts like Dr. Amy Kircher, Senior Advisor of the Food Protection and Defense Institute (FPDI), study: how the drivers of an event or condition create opportunities or incentives to commit crimes or disrupt systems.
TraceGains and University of Minnesota Partnership
TraceGains has established a partnership with Dr. Kircher and the University of Minnesota for access to data collected and curated by the FDPI. The institute protects the global food supply through research and education and has earned a reputation for pioneering innovative solutions. By integrating the university's vast amount of data with TraceGains Smart Alerts, our shared mission is to allow businesses to address global food system vulnerabilities better.
We recently caught up with Dr. Kircher to get insight into the food supply chain's current state.
“We know that population trends and changes in human behavior can disrupt food systems,” Kircher explained. “One of my favorite stories is about the pomegranate. Suddenly the fruit was touted for health benefits and we saw more pomegranate products than we’d ever seen before. We soon saw a cascade of food fraud associated with pomegranates with people taking advantage of the trend to turn a quick profit.”
Kircher advises companies to consider food fraud and food safety standards while operating amid the pandemic:
Are there new transportation links that introduce risk?
Are there delayed cargo vessels?
Are there air carriers that aren’t moving as frequently?
Are the same quality controls in place?
An Intelligent Adversary
“Perpetrators of food fraud are intelligent adversaries,” Kircher explains. “There are people who are always searching the food system for vulnerabilities, gaining access, and then evading detection and working around mitigation strategies. Unfortunately, even though we’re in this horrific space that is a global pandemic, bad guys still think like bad guys, and they’re watching the system and trying to determine where they can make money.”
Companies should look for threats within what Kircher calls the food defense threat triangle. Fraud, sabotage, and terrorism in the food system happen when these three elements exist:
Motivation. The intent to harm, including making money through illegal activity.
Capability. The knowledge and tactics needed to infiltrate the food system or food products.
Vulnerability. Accessibility or a place where adulteration could create an impact.
“The bottom line is that we can’t control the motivation of another person,” Kircher said. “We can’t control their capabilities. But we can collectively control vulnerability. So this means we need to understand where companies have holes in their systems we can mitigate against.”
According to Kircher, cybersecurity is also a growing threat in the food and agriculture space, making it crucial for your systems to be airtight, from manufacturing to transportation to procurement, and logistics.
Kircher advises companies to take a close look at their products and deconstruct them into their parts:
Are supply-demand shifts happening right now for the components?
Because we have restricted movement, are changes happening that increase vulnerability that wouldn’t usually exist? Consider logistics – both upstream and downstream.
Are product prices fluctuating? Are changes happening in commodity pricing, and are we following these changes to understand if counterfeiters are entering the market? Often these fluctuations mean there’s something amiss in the system.
Look at your primary ingredient sources. What COVID-19 measures are happening in those countries? Are there decreased workforces in those countries? Are production plants or harvesting being shut down? Can you trace every ingredient from origin to destination and vice versa?
Many food and supplement companies lack end-to-end supply chain visibility. Without a clear view, managing risk, achieving regulatory compliance, and satisfying consumer demand for transparency is challenging if not impossible. And as a result, businesses face food quality and safety issues that could permanently damage brand reputation and the bottom line.
With Smart Alerts, you’ll never miss a critical threat with automatic alerts for your items, ingredients, and formulas, and daily updates on new and emerging threats. You can pinpoint research by item or ingredient, country of origin, threat type, supplier, or date of event.