U.S. Public Interest Research Group estimates that nearly forty-eight million people get sick from tainted food annually1. This can be a result of various factors but often are attributed to the sourcing, transportation, and distribution of the ingredients. Chipotle has been the latest to encounter problems as it faces food safety issues across the United States. In the past month, numerous Chipotle locations have had to temporarily close due to E. coli outbreaks, norovirus encounters, and failing to meet food temperature requirements. As Chipotle works to reconfigure its standards and work to regain consumer trust, the focus has been put on its sourcing and supply chain.
Chipotle’s supply chain was unique in that each of its 1,900 locations has their own local sourcing, with the objective of providing customers with the freshest ingredients. Since the recent food safety challenges, Chipotle is reconsidering its suppliers. It has announced that it will be working on shipping its ingredients from providers that it believes can meet not only company standards but also have the volume capabilities and experience to provide fresh and safe ingredients. Instead of focusing on the local aspect of sourcing ingredients, it is going to look suppliers with the best ingredients, regardless of location. This is a great example of how with the right network in place, Chipotle and other companies can easily ship perishable items, ensuring ingredients are constantly available. Shippers don’t have to sacrifice quality and freshness for speed and availability.
Experienced third-party logistics providers have the technologies and processes in place to ensure that ingredients are moved quickly and in the right environments to ensure freshness. Containers are equipped to control the temperature and humidity to customize environments for the products being shipped. This has changed the perception of fresh ingredients. Local is no longer a freshness indicator since shipping has advanced and is executed to ensure quality.
Food safety has been a popular topic among the food shipping industry since President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which is expected to be in full effect with all rules finalized by May 31, 2016. FSMA was created to help avoid contamination by increasing transparency across all the touch points throughout the food’s shipping processes, making everyone accountable for the products. Among many rules, there is one which shippers and carriers are responsible for tracking and recording where the product came from and where it is going as it moves through the supply chain to consumption. The act is steering many food shippers to call upon 3PL providers to help with the transition and incorporate the technology and management to help implement and move their operations forward while providing the necessary documentation.
The food and logistics industries have continued to improve their practices to eliminate contamination. Chipotle will be a great example to all food shippers that obtaining fresh, quality ingredients is possible no matter how far you have to go to get them. Shipping perishables is a science and with the right team, you can continue to provide consumers with great ingredients and dining experience.