Produce Compliance

November 26, 2007 at 7:52 pm Leave a comment

Over at Fresh Talk, the blog of The Packer, the food industry is starting to sound like the health care industry.   A group of food buyers, represented by the Food Safety Leadership Council, issued a list of “On-Farm Produce Standards” designed to encourage safe food production practices starting at the farm.  These buyers are asking producers to comply with standards and commit to audits.  

As Tom Karst, the editor, writes “the FSLC should be credited for appreciating the value of on farm food safety standards…”  He also criticizes the FSLC’s stance that its members (including Publix supermarkets, Walt Disney World Co., and others) will each decide whether or not to do business with a producer who does not meet the audit standards.  “What,” he wonders, “is the point of the standards if they can be ignored for whatever reason?”  

The parallel between this effort and hospital/healthcare systems materials management and compliance is striking.   Many hospitals take a comprehensive approach to their vendor management and compliance programs at inception.   Then, exceptions begin to be made.   “This vendor is too big to NOT be trusted,” they say.  “This one is too small to bear the burden of record keeping,” they worry.     

Exceptions break down the best intended vendor compliance and materials management programs.   When a vendor can push for and achieve exemption, the exceptions shout that the hospitals aren’t serious about the program.  

It’s like the parent who says “no,” but later gives in.  The child learns that with a little persistence (say, 10 minutes of whining), she can get what she wants.  

Our Take:  The strongest vendor compliance and materials management programs we’ve seen are the ones that allow for tiers of risk, but don’t allow exceptions to participation.   Most importantly, the strongest programs have a reciprocal commitment from the buyer to the vendor.   The buyer commits to the vendor, “If you comply with my standards, I won’t do business with anyone who doesn’t.”  It doesn’t mean that buyer won’t do business with a competitor, but it does narrow the field to competitors who comply with the same rigorous standards.

Entry filed under: product safety, vendor compliance, vendor management.

Abundance Accuracy and Control

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