Farm to fork
The concept of “farm to fork” relates to the traceability of edible products as they move throughout the food supply chain. Key SCM players including food manufacturers, 3PLs, farmers, distribution centers and retailers must now closely monitor and control food handling and preparation practices and procedures. This helps to guarantee the safety of end consumers. The process of tracking food throughout the supply chain is much more complex now than ever before due to how far removed consumers are from food sources. In addition to focusing on safety during growth and processing, supply chain operators must also manage food preservation and transportation networks. The food to fork process now places large focus on contamination prevention and maintaining quality standards. Every stage of the food supply chain is highly regulated by government agencies such as the FDA and their newly implemented Food Safety Modernization Act.
The FDA FSMA includes the Produce Safety Rule which establishes standards for the safe production of raw fruits and vegetables, stage one in the farm to fork process. This provision, and many others like it, regulates the minimum safety standards that must be followed to identify and prevent food contamination sources. This legislation applies to farmers that grow, harvest, pack or store produce in a raw or unprocessed state.
Similar FDA legislation regulates the second stage of the food supply chain, food processing. The FSMA Preventative Controls Rule regulates both US and foreign facilities that process or store foods sold in the United States. Identified businesses must provide written plans that detail their analysis and implementation of food safety preventative measures. Food processing is a critical component of the supply chain because the majority of available food is sourced from a small percentage of the population. Food is preserved and processed to meet consumer demands for freshness, nutrition, convenience and more.
Intermediary transportation providers play a large role in closing the gap between processors and consumers, therefore playing a significant role in managing food quality. It is their responsibility to store and transport food to its final location whether that is retail store locations or direct-to-consumer. FDA FSMA also closely regulates this leg of the supply chain to ensure proper temperature, humidity, atmospheric and handling conditions are met.
Once food products reach consumers or “the fork” it is their responsibility to further ensure their personal safety through the proper storage and preparation of their purchased items. Many foodborne illnesses are derived from improper handling and preparation at the consumer level, making this just as critical to manage as every other level of the supply chain.