It seems that a constant opening paragraph on this blog this year has been the following: As if we did not have enough news on a potential significant supply chain disruption, there is news that…… 

Unfortunately, here we go again, and this time it’s the potential for a swine flu pandemic.  The latest update from Reuters and other media outlets this evening indicates that the World Health Organization moved closer to declaring the first flu pandemic in 40 years, raising the alert level to phase four, which indicates a significantly increased risk of a pandemic. Tragically, 149 human deaths have been reported in Mexico thus far, with probably more to come. The reactions from various countries has already spun into action and range from restricted travel, to outright bans on the sale or import of certain pork products that may have originated from infected areas.  While the spreading of the virus has not been directly linked to eating food products, that hasn’t stopped governments and consumers from forming their own opinions.

The blogsphere has already swung into action commenting on the potential supply chain impacts related to a pandemic, and I won’t attempt to duplicate.  Two insightful posts include an Andrian Gonzalez posting on his Logistics Viewpoints blog, and Jason Busch on his Spend Matters blog.  The common theme of recommendations is to stay informed with current developments, especially if you have suppliers or facilities within the impacted region.  As Jason points out, even if this current outbreak is contained, there are no assurances that another cross-border mutated version does not break out later in the year.

The time is now for supply chain risk management teams to begin their assessments of potential threats to the business, or disruptions that could impact supply or demand for products.  I sounded this warning last year concerning the powdered milk scandal in China, and this year with the salmonella in peanut products incident in January.

Supply Chain Matters will continue to provide additional commentary as well as insights as this crisis unfolds.

Bob Ferrari