Foodborne illnesses can cause a public panic, especially once that illness becomes tied to a specific food. Over the past couple of months, an E.Coli outbreak associated with romaine lettuce has caused general panic among consumers, grocers, and farmers alike, resulting in an estimated 45% downturn in sales. Considering that lettuce was valued at $3.6 billion last year, that’s an incredibly significant number.
When an outbreak such as this occurs, the FDA conducts an investigation in order to attempt to determine the origin and extent of the outbreak. Unfortunately, with current tools it’s not easy to narrow down the exact source of contaminated produce in a quick enough manner, and many farms or trucks have to dump their stock just in case.
The loss off stock, of course, sends ripples across the supply chain as grocers and restaurants need to replenish their stock but cannot. The result is a lot of money lost for a lot of different companies.
Using Supply Chain Visibility to Mitigate Outbreak Effects
What if there were a way to mitigate the financial losses on the outbreak while increasing overall public safety by effectively limiting exposure to the contagion? The answer to that lies in the supply chain, and the key is visibility.
Being able to track shipments using reliable, normalized digital information can drastically reduce the process of an investigation. The issue with previous outbreaks has been the reliability of shipping data. Investigators have to comb through spreadsheets, physical receipts, emails, and conduct interviews with people involved in supply chain transactions.
project44 collects data in real-time at each stage of the shipment workflow. That means normalized, detailed, dynamic data around pricing, routing scheduling, tracking, exceptions, and payment. Documents are digital, and data is all accessible from one source. That makes it extremely simple to track down the origin of a shipment, and find out exactly where the product is headed in transit or has already arrived.
There are instances where the contamination is the result of temperature levels moving out of the safe zone during transit. project44 can track the temperature of trucks in transit, and help all parties ensure that the proper governmental regulations are being followed. This can greatly contribute to stopping contaminated food from hitting restaurants and grocery shelves in the first place.
In the case of a food product with an E.Coli outbreak, that means zeroing in on the source and destination of the outbreak, and increasing the ability to quickly remove it from public consumption. It’s hard to provide an exact figure for how much money this could save in a case like the recent lettuce contamination, but it’s likely to be fairly significant. What’s more, it could even save lives.