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The importance of supply chain management has increased, as consumer concerns about food safety and quality have become more important, along with the demands for large amounts of consistent and reliable products. During distribution, food is exposed to various risks, such as inadequate storage or failure to keep a certain temperature, which consequently affects food integrity. This article explains the procedures distributors are implementing to guarantee food safety, food quality and overall food integrity in the supply chain.

In personalized nutrition, food is a tool for good health, implying an instrumental relationship between food and health, where customer trust and confidence are paramount. Nowadays the majority of food products are trustworthy and meets consumer expectations, but they’re still are reported cases of consumer-related food incidents. For organizations involved in such incidents, it can result in costly product recalls, market withdrawals, safety alerts, the doubtful reputation of the company and its brands and lost consumer trust. However, failures in food safety can have serious negative consequences not only for the companies involved, but also for consumers, and the worst-case scenario occurs when incidents lead to deaths or illness. The process of the globalization of the food industry has sparked heightened awareness about the various risks and vulnerabilities that products are exposed to as they move along the supply chain continuum from design and sourcing to manufacturing, transportation, distribution and final sale to the consumer.

Integrity throughout the Food Supply Chain

  • Raw materials integrity – raw materials have always been discussed after any incident involving product recall.
  • Production integrity – focuses on ensuring processes, management systems, and facilities during the manufacturing process.
  • Service integrity – not only the quality of products but also the quality of service is important.
  • Information integrity – the information is given to consumers should uphold the integrity of the processes.

Although food safety and security are better today than ever before, there is a big risk with food safety in the global food chain at multiple points of vulnerability directly related to the complexity and length of the supply chain, i.e. lots of food facilities that process or distribute food that is registered, food containers moved on trucks, trains and ships every year; and over a million points of sale, such as restaurants, grocery stores and other foodservice outlets for the distribution of food. The greater the complexity in the supply chain, the greater the chances are the products involved are likely to have issues of authenticity as some processed food products have ingredients from different countries. It is evident that the chain members that are well equipped in terms of food SC integrity are able to track down possible causes of any incidents.

Improving the integrity of the food chain, making certain that food is traceable, safe to eat, high quality and genuine requires communication between all food chain participants. Effective and efficient communication is crucial for active food chains in today’s global food market. Techniques based on bar-coding are very effective in communication and certifying both the origin and quality of food products. Technological advancements, such as active RFID tags are the most cutting edge technology for supply chain integrity and traceability and can automatically capture a range of information concerning product identity, properties, and data (e.g., temperature history), thus providing a supply chain management system with a complete description of the current state of the product.

The Importance of Temperature Tracking

As the food is a temperature-sensitive product, it can be damaged when not kept within a specific temperature range, and supply chain integrity includes the additional requirements of proper packaging, temperature protection, and monitoring. Any bacterial growth can be out of control without the appropriate temperature and humidity in managing food throughout the supply chain. A temperature-controlled supply chain or a cold chain provides the essential facilities and methods required to maintain the quality of food as the temperature is the most important factor in prolonging or maintaining the food product characteristics and shelf life. It is also known as temperature integrity that must be preserved from the point of production, processing, through each of the transport stages – handling, loading, unloading, and storage – and extends to storage at the consuming household.

Food products that are transported in long distances for long periods of time before reaching retailers or processing factories require special refrigerators and temperature conditions. The situation is more complex if we take into account that due to cheaper operational costs and the need to deliver food products to all parts of the world almost all food companies have outsourced their transportation activities to third-party logistics (3PL) service providers. As the same temperature should be ensured during transportation and storage in the supply chain, the logistics service providers (LSP) have the greatest responsibility and have already implemented some technologies for temperature tracking

Regulation Issues

In order to ensure food integrity and to have safe foods, there is a wide range of different standards, regulations, and certifications in the food sector. They are based on domestic law and practice and also operate within an international framework of rules and agreements. Increased globalization has led to food safety hazards and resulted in a complex network of public and private incentives to implement enhanced food safety controls. The changes in food safety approaches which ranged from reactive tactics to proactive strategy with preventative measures such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) regulations, the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), and Good Hygienic Practices (GHPs).

It can help to reduce the administrative burden of regulation on business and promote more efficient approaches to regulatory inspections and the management of food safety, particularly in relation to enforcement and monitoring activities. At a global level, there are international trade agreements developed by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) established Codex which adopted one of the key standards related to food safety – the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) standard. The measures cover all stages after primary production, during preparation, processing, manufacturing, packaging, storing, transportation, distribution, handling and offering for sale or supply to the consumer”

Ensuring the Integrity of the Cold Chain

Companies state that they offer a high degree of security and assurance that what clients produce to reach the consumer without affecting the quality of the product. Therefore, they put special emphasis on traceability in the cold chain because a break in the traceability of temperature leads to food spoilage and as such, can cause health hazards. In order to avoid the distortion of food quality and product safety, companies mention they have work procedures in place and they have work procedures within each activity. The whole process of food transport in the cold chain is followed by IT technology, meaning that at any time temperature in the chamber can be read. Due to the WMS system for warehouse management, companies can follow product traceability, the location of the product in a retail store as well as the transport vehicle in which the product was delivered, in order to be able to react promptly and in necessary cases, withdraw the product.

Food Storage Process

The first activity is the receipt of the food products, which represents the first critical control point (CCP1) of the process. If the temperature is not appropriate, corrective actions are needed, otherwise, the process continues. The next process is food storage at an adequate temperature, which represents the second critical control point (CPP2). If the temperature is not appropriate, corrective actions are needed, otherwise, the process continues. The third critical control point (CCP3) is checking the temperature during loading the food into the transport vehicle.


If food distribution food changes its biological, chemical or other characteristics, its quality, safety, and healthiness could be challenged. Accordingly, food integrity is questioned. It is therefore important to stress and emphasize the importance of temperature monitoring at every link in the supply chain.


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