The Technology Behind Automated Vendor Management

Contamination recalls from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) surged by an unprecedented 167% over the first half of 2016. This rise is largely attributed to tighter regulations and technological advances but also reflects the realities of our increasingly complex and interconnected food chain. As many of last year’s recalls illustrate, a single defective ingredient can devastate an entire supply system, affecting multiple manufacturers, brands, and products. Effective vendor management thus becomes a central issue for any food manufacturer.

SunOpta’s precautionary sunflower seed recall is an example of this multiplier effect. In May 2016, organic food company SunOpta voluntarily recalled a number of kernel products due to possible traces of listeria. The recall made headlines, affecting more than 645,000 units in the second quarter of 2016; it spanned 25 states and parts of Canada. Dozens of brands were affected by the recall, including Sunrich Naturals and Planter’s, Quaker Oats, Clif Bars, and even a Trader Joe’s Salad. For SunOpta alone, the cost of refunding customers and replacing products totaled more than $16 million. Remember, these are only direct costs – they do not account for lost sales and harm caused to the company’s market value and reputation.

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