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Which free horizon scanning toolkits could you be using?

Here are 6 that we recommend that don’t require any expense.

Helpful guidance for food companies completing Vulnerability Assessments for BRC7 clause 5.4.2

We are all aware of the recent BRC7, clause 5.4.2 which places a requirement on all food businesses to complete a documented vulnerability assessment, taking into account any historical evidence of substitution or adulteration. This is often referred to as horizon scanning and is aimed at reducing supply chain risk.

To date, there is no official guidance from BRC on how to do this. So with the benefit of our company’s industry-wide overview, here is a preliminary recommendation of how to begin to tackle this for the first time, and where to look for options to add to your horizon scanning toolkit. We intend to keep this guidance updated over time as best practice slowly begins to emerge within the industry.

horizon scanning toolkit checklist

The six horizon scanning toolkit options we have identified are all freely available and require no expense, apart from your time to research them, and details of how best to achieve this are detailed below. Here are the sources:

  • RASFF portal
  • Foodfraud database
  • Internet searches
  • Trade magazines and publications
  • Updates from trade associations that your business are members of
  • Social media such as LinkedIn

Headline advice before you start:

The intention of the new vulnerability assessments is to reduce and ameliorate the supply chain risk of your food business becoming a victim of fraud and adulteration, unintentionally from within your supply chains. This means that there are three important tasks to prioritise:

  1. Make sure that your raw material specifications are up to date
  2. Make sure that your finished product specifications are up to date and you are aware of all claims being made on packaging.
  3. Think of this whole exercise and horizon scanning as being about business and brand protection.
  4. Reduction of supply chain risk is likely to deliver commercial benefits.

Here are the details for each source:

1. RASFF Portal
RASFF stands for Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed and enables information to be shared efficiently between its EU member states (EU-28 national food safety authorities, Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland). It provides a round-the-clock service to ensure that urgent notifications are sent, received and responded to collectively and efficiently. Thanks to RASFF, many supply chain risks have been averted before they could have been harmful to European consumers.

The RASFF portal features an interactive searchable online RASFF database. It gives public access to summary information about the most recently transmitted RASFF notifications as well as search for information on any notification issued in the past. Click here to access the RASFF portal. RASFF portal data is generally used by various Horizon scanning tools commercially available in the market place.

2. Foodfraud database
The Foodfraud database is published by the US Pharmacopeial Convention (Don’t ask me to pronounce it). In an effort to help identify problematic food ingredients and catalogue detection methods, USP has developed this database as a repository for ingredient fraud reports.

This information can be useful to parties responsible for assessing existing and emerging supply chain risks and trends for economically motivated adulteration, authenticity, fraud, or counterfeiting issues for food ingredients. Beyond listing food fraud adulterants, the database provides a baseline understanding of the susceptibility or vulnerability of individual ingredients to fraud. In addition, it can be useful for those managing the risk of food fraud by providing a library of detection methods reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Click here to access the Foodfraud database. As a horizon scanning tool this database provides an alternative perspective to the data available on the RASFF portal.

Horizon Scanning Toolkit Online

3. Internet Searches
Simple yet very powerful:

Step 1 – Enter description of ingredient into a popular browser followed by “adulteration”

Step 2 – Hit search.

Step 3 – Review results, you may be surprised, shocked and even horrified.

4. Trade Magazines & Publications
Fraud, adulteration and substitution is very topical in the industry these days, take the time to scan through the various trade publications that are sitting around your offices which are likely to contain topical stories relating to fraud and adulteration. Be sure to do it frequently – every month perhaps, or every new issue.

5. Updates from trade associations
Most food businesses are members of trade associations and research associations such as Campden & Leatherhead. Most of these organisations are publishing free updates to their members, ensure that you are on the circulation list.

6. Social media such as LinkedIn
For those of you on LinkedIn, you will notice that there are a growing number of articles and posts covering food fraud, horizon scanning and emerging supply chain risks. As social media continues to expand its reach I expect that social will become very pervasive as a 24/7 tool for sharing information.

Using the above free horizon scanning toolkit options you will have a mountain of data on the historical evidence of substitution or adulteration across your food raw materials.
If you have discovered any other free tools which are not listed here, please do let me know and I will update this list.

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