The following posting can also be viewed and commented upon on the Kinaxis Supply Chain Expert Community web site.

Readers of the Supply Chain Matters blog often know how often we have been highlighting incidents of supply chain risk related to product recalls originating from contamination or bogus materials.  The incidents have been far-reaching, ranging from the ongoing massive recall incident involving multiple models of Toyota vehicles to numerous incidents of contaminated or bogus products entering various industry supply chains.  One common aspect of many of these incidents is when certain products originating from specific suppliers are the source of the contamination and the effects rapidly cascade to other multiple product-related supply chains.  Past incidents include peanut products, pistachios, drug compounds and more recently cracked pepper that coated certain salami products.

The most recent real-time incident involves the suspected contamination of hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), which is an ingredient incorporated in many food products.  On March 4th, the New York Times reported that thousands of processed foods, from soups to hot dogs, contain this flavoring ingredient that is suspected of being contaminated with salmonella.  The specific supplier named was Basic Food Flavors of Las Vegas Nevada, and the original discovery was made by a customer upstream in the food processing supply chain. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected the Basic Foods plant in February and uncovered salmonella in the company’s processing equipment, which led the company to voluntarily recall all of its HVP product produced since September 17, 2009, over five months worth of production.

The article notes that most affected products are safe because cooking, either before or after sale, eliminates the risk.  But that in no way eliminates the risk if your particular product does not completely meet that cooked criteria, or erring more on the side of caution prevails in terms of risk to the consumer.  As even more real-time evidence to this situation, yesterday Procter and Gamble voluntarily recalled two specific flavors of its very popular Pringles potato chip product because they contained this same suspect HVP ingredient. I have no doubt that there may be other recall announcements coming.

Once again, the important take-away reinforced by these ongoing incidents is the critical importance that both supply chain traceability and risk mitigation have become as required process capabilities, and how important technology helps in supporting such capabilities.  An overdependence of regulatory agencies to discover and track the actual sourcing of contamination often implies that the supply chain has already been impacted by an incident.  This mandates the need to be able to quickly and efficiently trace where certain products were manufactured, and to which customers or retail outlets they were distributed.  It also implies the ability to be able to quantify the overall risk involved and the ability to quickly quantify, assess and implement risk mitigation plans.  Having a supply chain planning system that can perform what-if analysis and quickly re-plan for alternative ingredients is rather fundamental, as well.

Our community often looks to P&G as the benchmark in world class supply chain capability.  It should therefore be no surprise that within days of the original announcement, P&G was able to trace what specific end-products were or were not at risk, what lot numbers were involved, and was able to transmit important information to consumers on a dedicated web site. 

Successful risk mitigation occurs when proper planning, process, and information technology enablement are in place.  Too often, the negative effects come when they are not in place.

 Bob Ferrari