How Food Logistics Plays a Role in Marrying Sustainability with Food Safety

Concerns about food safety and, perhaps more critically, sustainable food production are behind the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) currently being implemented in the United States.  As usual, we must look to technology which is crucial to helping solve this kind of complicated and complex challenge.  How do supply chain technologies help achieve both safety and sustainability in our food supply?

Food production and the resulting logistics challenges will only grow more complicated as the global population continues to grow toward the 9 billion mark by 2050. Beyond the challenges of simply producing enough food for all those mouths, dramatic climate change threatens food producers’ ability to sustainably meet the swelling demand.  A hotter climate also poses highly increased risks of food contamination as it moves through the supply chain.

Food Logistics magazine quotes sustainability expert Leslie Sykes, “The overlapping and complementary nature of food safety and sustainability best practices presents an opportunity for harmonization, not just at the production level, but also at the marketing, buyer, consumer education, and certification levels. Many of the systems used to track, promote, and manage risk for food safety can be retooled and used for sustainability purposes.”

Many food shippers already have such systems in place.  For instance, the supply chain logistics tools like TMS, route optimizers and WMS solutions food producers use to manage the movement of agricultural freight can be effectively configured to monitor temperatures of perishable products in transit.  They can be set up to monitor and enforce the proper, timely cleaning and maintenance of equipment used to haul product.  They can even be leveraged to minimize the miles traveled between farm, production plant and retail outlets.  These three configurability options, together, mitigate spoilage and contamination all while yielding a smaller carbon footprint.

An example of a next generation sustainability concept looks at ways ag producers manage actual land use.  Crop rotation and other best practices for sustainable agriculture can influence how, when and where product is grown, harvested and picked up for delivery.  Marrying the planning of sound agricultural practices with an eye toward the eventual involvement of transportation is also a strategy reliant on the food shipper’s ability to devise and execute efficient transportation plans.

Between an increased focus on the logistics required to support sustainable growing practices and redoubled efforts at using tech like TMS, advanced scheduling, transportation optimization and dynamic routing, food shippers can ensure safer, more sustainable food supply chains and continue to feed the world.