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Identifying Supply Chain Risks

By: Forward Food Solutions Team

Date Published: 4/14/21

Regulatory bodies expect companies in the food industry to have robust supply chain programs in place, but what does that look like? How do companies know they have their bases covered?

While each company and product are unique, there are guidelines that can help companies ensure they are doing the right thing. In this article series, we will look at the critical elements that should be considered when implementing or evaluating supply chain programs.

Today we’ll dive into Part 1: Identifying Risks. This particular element is the foundation of supply chain work and consists of identifying, evaluating and controlling for risks.

Risk Identification in Supply Chain Management

1. Gather information

In order to conduct a thorough risk assessment, or Hazard Analyses, it is crucial to gather information pertaining to the following areas:

  • Ingredient Lists

  • Products

  • Packaging

Gathering this information can be tedious. Some companies are less comfortable providing ingredient lists than others due to proprietary formulations, recipes, etc. Communication is important here to ensure suppliers feel protected in order to share the accurate information needed. The Hazard Analyses is only as good as the information that is analyzed.

Also, these three areas don’t exist in a vacuum. If one ingredient is missed when conducting the Hazard Analyses, the integrity of the whole analyses could be threatened. For example, if one food allergen is missed in the ingredient list, it can affect many steps in a standardized process.

2. Identify the Hazards

Once you have gathered information on your ingredients, products and labels it is important to identify the inherent risks each may yield.

The Hazard Analyses will typically begin with identifying risks related to the following areas:

  • Physical

  • Chemical

  • Biological

3. Other Key Considerations to take into Account

  • Have there been any recent recalls of products like yours?

Companies are expected to stay on top of recalls of similar products. The recall of a seemingly low risk ingredient will dramatically change how it is evaluated from that day forward.

  • Where are the ingredients you are using sourced from?

Is your ingredient sourced from a country that is known to have problems with food fraud? A notorious example of this would be the melamine recalls in China.

  • Do any of your ingredients have increased risks of food adulteration due to demand?

Honey, olive oil and other high demand products are at risk of being cut with other ingredients.

4. Determine & Explain the Level of Risk

Not all supply chain risks are created equal. The risk level of some hazards is easier to determine such as E.coli in ground beef. However, not all hazards are as easy to rank. There are any number of variables that can affect how an individual company will determine which risks are greater than others. It is imperative that food facility companies be able to do the following 2 things:

  • Determine the level of risk

  • Explain the reasoning used to determine the risk

In other words, be able to argue your case for deciding why or why not the hazard risk is considered high or low.


At the end of the day, the only way to illustrate the work that you have done to complete a thorough risk analyses is to document it.

It is important to be able to communicate the why, how, and what the company is doing to address risks and keep food safe. This is never truer than when it comes to regulatory audits.

When managing your supply chain, it is important that the hazards are identified and evaluated for risk. Everything that comes after, will be based on this foundation so it is worth putting the time into Risk Identification on the front end. Your process depends on it.

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Forward Food Solutions, Food Safety Consulting, Supply Chain, Risk Management, Auditor, Internal Audit, Outsourcing, Risk Assessment, Hazard Analyses, Hazard Analysis, Process, Safety Management, Adulteration, Ingredients

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