Saturday, September 20, 2008

The potential downside of buying local

We’re only one panel and one speaker into the Symposium (see the post below for some context), but already some definite themes are emerging. One, clearly, is the need for traceability, which by the consensus of presenters thus far is a particularly pointed need because of rising imports. The other, perhaps not surprisingly, is local sourcing, which has been largely cited as a food safety challenge.

Said Theno: “Many of these local suppliers do not have the sophisticated controls in place. [Yet] you need a lot of processes and process controls for food safety. Small does not necessarily mean bad;” some small players, he noted, do indeed put the necessary systems and safeguards in place. But, he suggested, a lot simply can’t afford it.

“ Sacrificing safety for the marketing aura of saying ‘locally produced’ is not wise,” he concluded.

Mike Reinert, VP of supply management, talked about the need of educating those small local suppliers, while applying the same sort of criteria that would be used for suppliers of any size: third-party audits, checking for a food-safety security plan, employee background checks.

The safeguards aren’t unique to that realm, he suggested. But the challenge is making sure that they’re applied. He indicated that Delaware North tries to do it by educating its suppliers. He also suggested that Delaware North personnel are also trained to ensure standards are met by the local players from which they buy.

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