Establishing standards: There are a number of organizations developing international standards for the food chain, SCL’s Ratliff notes. While they focus primarily on providing services to their members (composed of a subset of service providers to the food chain), Ratliff explains the distinction of the Center is that it is focused on bringing together in an integrated approach to the chain all of the stakeholders, such as producers, processors, transportation providers, exporters, importers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers.
Currently, there are no cold chain standards to drive assurance and customer loyalty, adds Pacitti. “The costs of information have contributed to market failures in perishable product safety provisions, thus making the design of effective interventions difficult. Cold chain standards can reduce product safety risks and companies are seeking comprehensive answers to product integrity and supply chain effectiveness in light of the rapid rise in public health issues.”
Pacitti reports that the Center will develop cold chain standards, processes and applications that will help overcome the expense of setting and monitoring levels of microbial food-borne pathogens and other product threats. “The Center will provide an economy of scale for solutions that the majority of perishable supply chain members would not be able to design or afford,” he says.
Providing educational opportunities: Ferko at U.S. Foodservice reports his company intends to utilize the Center for educational opportunities and research partnerships.
“We have been looking for an academic partner for some time and the Center presents a solution for our team to enhance our performance. We would like to work with the Center to develop science-based metrics that measure food safety and quality within the cold chain,” says Ferko. “We would also like to share some of the results of our own programs back to the Center, as I think there could be many valuable give-and-take opportunities between the industry and academia.”
The Center expects to be on the cutting edge of advancing processes and technology, notes Owen at Supervalu. “We are always considering ways to further develop our associates, so the Center will offer us this great educational opportunity.”
As a leader in supply chain and logistics, Georgia Tech also lends itself as a recruitment resource, he adds.
Griffith perceives the Center as an excellent source for educational opportunities for both herself and for members of her team at Wawa.
“We will use the Center as a resource for research on how to improve product quality throughout the cold chain. That might mean that they develop a standard for us of maximum temperature a product can reach before its quality begins to deteriorate or before we have a food safety issue,” she says.
Informing regulations: The impact to the industry of government regulations will be another facet of the Center’s research component, notes David Sterling, partner at Sterling Solutions.
“The amount of food safety regulations on the horizon could fundamentally impact how the industry does business. There is no true focal point for this kind of study today. The Center will be able to translate governmental regulations to indicate to the industry what the impact will be on their businesses,” says Sterling. “Our goal is to be proactive and have a voice in governmental discussions as they relate to regulations.”
Ferko at U.S. Foodservice notes: “Considering the ongoing regulatory activity focusing on food safety, it is especially important for the industry to take the lead. I think the Center will be an important partner in this endeavor.”
Supervalu’s Owen looks to the Center to examine best practices and best processes as they relate to regulations coming from various branches of the government. The industry can look to the Center to recommend regulations relative to food products sourced internationally, he adds.
Providing economical benefits: Of particular interest to Owen will be the methods the Center will develop to expand the cold life in the perishable portion of the grocery distribution business. “Applying these methods to our business and to the industry will be beneficial and will provide great economic value as well,” he says.
Owen is also looking to the Center to discover ways for companies to lower their energy costs while maintaining cold chain integrity. “Many of our facilities of ours are very large and use a lot of electricity. We are always looking for ways to become more efficient.”