Sloan Says Study Supply Chains to Predict Gaps in Food Safety

Supply

MIT Sloan recently published an article about a joint study commissioned by the FDA and conducted by Sloan and the MIT Center for Biomedical Innovation on “how food is grown, processed and shipped to the U.S.” from “developing countries that lack the basic quality controls we have here at home.”

Sloan professor of operations management Retsef Levi says the two basic risks that concern the FDA are those of the non-intentional, bacteria variety and those of the “terror-and economically-motivated.” Levi’s multidisciplinary team created “predictive risk models of how different product categories are vulnerable to what extent of risk, and which are more likely to be engaged.”

They discovered that the product category and its supply chain are integral to understanding the potential risk. As an example, Levi points to outbreaks of early mortality syndrome that decimated the Asian shrimp population in 2009 and 2013.

Levi says, “You might be able to assess whether risk is likely to increase if you understand what kind of socioeconomic and environmental drivers could increase the level of risk.” Levi had his team reconstruct the different supply chain layers by reviewing shipping data in order to pinpoint “companies that are more likely to be engaged in the adulteration of food.”

The policy is slow but steady: Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, which will hold importers “accountable to verify their supply chain.” But on our end, Levi says the current approach to testing for contaminants is too myopic. “The range of contaminants is quite unbounded. The only way to address that is with testing that is far more robust and can detect multiple compounds at the same time.”

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