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An Australian food company has recently taken the action of recalling various batches of frozen berries after their consumption was linked with 12 cases of Hepatitis A across the eastern states.

The company had sourced the packaged berries from a company in China, which were then distributed in Australia.

Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver that is transmitted through the faecal-oral route.

Possible pathways for the contamination include an infected person failing to follow good hygiene practices and subsequently handling the berries. Alternatively, water used in berry processing may have been contaminated with sewage.

The disease causes symptoms that can include fever, nausea, stomach pains, tiredness, loss of appetite and jaundice. It can have an incubation period from 15 to 50 days, and symptoms often persist for several weeks.

The Australian company has extended its product recall to two brands of frozen berries in varying size packets. On its website, it emphasises that none of its other products are affected by the recall.

The issue has received widespread media attention, and while it’s early days yet, it will be challenging for the brands to regain market confidence, despite the company’s assurances that they no longer use the supplier in question. There is also speculation of a class action lawsuit being made, with a law firm urging anyone who has eaten the berries and developed the virus to make contact.

Instances such as this underscore the importance of checking out the standards practised in your offshore supply chain.

There are steps you can – and should – take to make sure you control any risks to the best of your ability.

This includes identifying, analysing and quantifying the potential risks that exist in your supply chain. Equipped with this information, you can then prioritise which risks you need to address, and develop tools and systems to eliminate or minimise these risks. (And of course beyond developing these tools and systems, it’s also crucial to ensure they are correctly and consistently implemented.)

It’s also wise to establish a policy that sets out what steps your business will take if the risks do materialise. This way you’re not caught off guard and your business is better placed to take corrective action, thereby reducing negative fallout.

Having a strong supply chain is not a ‘set and forget’ process. To safeguard your business it’s vital to regularly measure and evaluate current and emerging risks, and make adjustments where necessary.

Supply chain risk mitigation in China is an area in which we specialise. I’d be pleased to speak with you about the services we offer to help maintain the integrity of your supply chain and minimise the risk of problems occurring. Contact me today to learn more.

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