Supply Chain Review Pressure Following Chicken Scare

Public confidence in supermarkets and their supply chains has taken another hit, following a scare about contaminated chicken.


A recent report has found that one in four chicken samples bought from major supermarket chains contain antibiotic-resistant E.coli. The findings are again putting pressure on supermarkets to tighten their supply chain quality assurance processes.

While supermarkets have worked hard to improve supply chain traceability, this report shows there is much work to be done. It also serves to highlight a wider issue in the food supply chain – the use of antibiotics.

There is on-going criticism about the overuse of antibiotics by humans, but use of the drugs on livestock is contributing to increased resistance to antibiotics by so-called “super-bugs”.

Issues Raised in Chicken Testing

The study of chicken samples was carried out by the University of Cambridge. It revealed that from 92 chicken pieces, including whole chicken, thigh pieces, drumsticks and diced breast meat, 22 pieces contained potentially deadly bacteria.

The “superbug” strain of E.coli was found in chicken samples from all leading UK supermarkets, including Tesco, Waitrose, Aldi and Morrisons. Similar strains were found in supermarket pork samples tested in the same study.

The findings raise concerns about the quality of factory farming in the UK, as well as the end-to-end supply chains of the big retailers.

Dr. Mark Holmes, part of the research team that conducted the study, suggested that more resources needed to be put into assessment of antibiotic resistance in animals in the supply chain.

“These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine,” Holmes said. “The levels of resistant E.coli that we have found are worrying. Every time someone falls ill, instead of just getting a food poisoning bug they might also be getting a bug that is antibiotic resistant.”

Supply Chain Quality Assurance

Quality control software experts InfinityQS suggest that, while the supermarkets themselves might argue that their quality assurances are sound, the findings suggest this is not the case.

“It’s clear that a disconnect exists across these supermarkets’ supply chains. It’s likely they’ll have stringent procedures in place for their own food traceability, but it’s imperative these are adhered to amongst their suppliers.”

The company suggested that closer relationships with both suppliers and farmers was necessary. This could mean a more pro-active approach to site visits to where they source food from, and understand how they could help farmers to make improvements.

“An effective supply chain process will ensure that controls are in place to manage the necessary people, activities, resources and data throughout the supply chain.

“If done correctly, that product will be delivered with the correct documents, with an agreed quantity, adhering to a set quality standard and all sent at the right time to the right place.”

Antibiotic Overuse Creating Resistance 

The report also serves to highlight the wider issue of overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. As well as depleting global supplies of antibiotics, systematic overuse is creating resistant strains of potentially deadly bacteria, including E.coli.

It’s predicted that, by 2050, one person will die every 3 seconds around the world from antibiotic resistant bacteria. Globally, 70 per cent of bacteria have now developed antibiotic resistance, including to traditionally ‘last line of defence’ treatment.

It’s estimated that around 40 per cent of antibiotic use in the UK is for animals in the food supply chain. The drugs are frequently given to large groups of completely healthy animals, with the intention of stopping the spread of infections. Mass medication accounts for an estimated 90 per cent of all animal antibiotic use in the UK.

Intensive farming practices, and keeping large groups of animals in close quarters, is to blame for such practices. In such crowded conditions, even one unhealthy animal can have devastating consequences.

However, as farming practices change, and retailers aim to ensure higher animal welfares standards, this issue may be lessened. Retailers have also been urged to pay a higher price for meat such as chicken and pork. This would relieve productivity pressures on farmers, and reduce intensive farming too.

Will this change your dietary habits? How can procurement get more involved in changing the underlying issues? Let us know in the comments below.


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We’ve been on the look out for all the top stories in procurement and supply chain this week. And here they are…

Bailout Rejection Makes Hanjin Liquidation Likely

  • The chances of a bailout for stricken shipping company Hanjin look unlikely, increasing the possibility of liquidation.
  • The bailout was needed to help the company combat $5.4 billion debts, and allow it to unload cargo at ports.
  • However, with decisions still to be made, the South Korean Government criticised the company for “economic irresponsibility”.
  • The company is conducting sales fund the release of $14 million worth of stock currently stuck on its cargo ships.

Read more at Supply Chain Dive

Sewing Robots to Join Garment Workforce

  • A company called Sewbo has developed a robot that can sew, and intends to replace humans in the garment manufacturing process.
  • The machine uses stiffened, pre-cut garment pieces and feeds them into a sewing machine, before dropping the completed garment into hot water to remove the non-toxic stiffener.
  • Automated clothing production provides a potential solution to labour abuses and sweat-shop conditions in the developing world.
  • However, large-scale automation would also put millions of people in the garment industry out of work.

Read more and watch the video at Engadget

Study Says Petrol Must Be Phased Out by 2035

  • According to a Climate Action Tracker report, the last petrol powered car will have to be sold by 2035 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • A ceiling of 1.5 degrees was the most stringent goal set by world leaders at the Paris summit last December.
  • Current projections suggest that electric vehicles will make up only 5 per cent of the world’s car fleets by 2030
  • This means aggressive measures will be required to shift rapidly away from fossil-fuel powered vehicles much earlier than expected.

Read more at Fortune

“Poor Procurement” To Blame For Detention Centre Cost Blowout

  • Australia’s scandal-ridden offshore detention centres for asylum seekers have come under intense scrutiny once again.
  • An audit of the centres revealed “serious and persistent deficiencies” in the relevant department’s management of the contracts.
  • It identified failures in the open tender process for security, cleaning, catering and welfare services, with costs blowing out from a $351 million contract in 2012, to a current $2.2 billion contract.
  • The report also criticised the original open tender process, and negotiations that took place with suppliers in 2012.

Read more at The Guardian