A major recall in the food manufacturing and retailing sector was once a rare event guaranteed to make the news headlines. Not anymore. Hardly a week passes without some new eruption of salmonella, listeria, E. coli, or other noxious contaminants cropping up somewhere along the food production and distribution chain. When the source is far back along the chain, and contaminated ingredients find their way into multiple products and outlets, major recall incidents routinely take a toll on food sector firms’ profits, operations, and reputations.
The reasons for the steady escalation in the number of contamination incidents and recalls seen in recent decades are essentially threefold. Perhaps most obviously, there is increased complexity in the supply chain. Where once food and drink manufacturers might have used just a handful of suppliers, many of them well known to their clients and locally based, today’s food industry firms could be sourcing ingredients from 50 or 60 different suppliers around the world, as consumers’ increasingly exotic tastes and price sensitivity prompt them to search ever further afield for new and competitively priced raw materials.