Leveraging the Power of Online Media for Early Detection of Supply Chain Risks

Gutter oil, also known as drainage oil, is an illicit product recycled from kitchen waste, by-products from leather processing plants, and meat offal from slaughterhouses. On September 1, 2014, Taiwanese authorities raided an edible lard manufacturing facility belonging to Chang Guann Co. and found gutter oil was used across the company’s products. Follow-up investigations revealed that the same company had produced 780 tonnes of contaminated lard, which had been subsequently distributed to several Fortune 500 multinational retailers and over 235 local food companies. This incident resulted in one of the largest food recalls related to gutter oil contamination in Asia, causing public fear and brand damage to affected companies globally.

The food industry, globally and in Asia, faces a multitude of challenges specifically pertaining to supply chain integrity and food safety. In the last decade, the development and use of new technologies for automated, informatics-based global disease monitoring has bridged many gaps in our ability to perform surveillance of food product safety, quality, fraud, and defense. Although food industry stakeholders are exploring how Big Data can be used to strengthen corporate insights and pro-active decision-making, salient gaps persist including the need for increased multi-disciplinary approaches, efficient data automation, and validation of scientific insights.

SupplyChainMap is a digital listening solution enabled by Booz Allen Hamilton’s Epidemico platform designed to address these needs. Initially co-developed in partnership with the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to strengthen regulatory oversight under Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), we are adapting SupplyChainMap for use across the commercial sector. Drawing on multidisciplinary expertise in food science, epidemiology, ecology, geography, data science and public health policy, SupplyChainMap is the Next Generation tool for industry stakeholders to ensure food and supply chain integrity. It builds off 10 years of experience in data automation and Harvard Medical School-backed scientific validation research, and is poised to transform commercial applications of Big Data in food safety.

How it works: SupplyChainMap - China

SupplyChainMap-China was designed to improve food safety and localized supply chain integrity in China. It aggregates and filters online local media and publically official government reports, providing customers with an integrated view of food safety across the country (Figure 1). Through a refined data curation pipeline that combines natural language processing, machine learning, and human expertise, the system auto-classifies data that are relevant to the customers and extracts key information regarding contaminants, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) violations, product type, brand, symptomology, and geo-location. Trained subject matter and Chinese language experts perform manual curation of acquired data to ensure ongoing information accuracy and enhance efficiency of the automated system (Figure 2). SupplyChainMap-China additionally integrates over 1,000 layers of geospatial data regarding environmental, socio-demographic and infrastructural risks to supply chain integrity, offering users unparalleled insight for high-value operational and corporate decision-making.


Fig. 1: SupplyChainMap Dashboard


Fig. 2: SupplyChainMap System Architecture

Building on Epidemico’s 10-years of experience in scientific research on digital surveillance methods, we performed a study to compare the frequency of food contamination events captured by the system in China, stratified by media type (news media versus official government reports). This study evaluated data collected from Baidu News from April to November 2015. We found that SupplyChainMap’s data aggregation captured 8 times more food safety alerts than official data government reports. The most common food contaminants identified in media and formal reports included, bacteria, unspecified; E.coli; and nutrient deficiencies/excesses. Food categories most affected by contamination included beverages; bakery wares; fruits and vegetables, seaweeds, nuts and seeds. Chinese provinces with the highest number of food safety alerts were Shandong, Beijing, and Guangdong. Importantly, comparison of SupplyChainMap unofficial data and official government reports show a strong correlation between contaminant distributions (Pearson correlation coefficient = 0.69, p<0.001) (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Distribution of food contamination events reported by unofficial and official data sources, China April-Nov-15

Industry Relevance

SupplyChainMap was designed to help industry users easily identify supply chain vulnerability by tagging out key information regarding suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers implicated in food safety events. Application of geographic information system (GIS) data layers allows users to additionally investigate potential situational risks, including environmental variability, socio-economic indicators and physical infrastructure. The tool allows stakeholders to receive real-time intelligence related to their extended value chain and be proactive with follow-up investigative testing and recall.

Additionally, quality managers can adjust inspection strategies and risk mitigation plans by monitoring emerging contaminants for food product portfolios.


SupplyChainMap’s capabilities offer companies essential competitive intelligence about their products, allowing them to strengthen strategies for enhanced customer loyalty and repeat business, proactively mitigate corporate and operational risk, and enhance reporting for regulatory compliance.

About Booz Allen Hamilton | Epidemico

Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of strategy and technology for more than 100 years. Today, the firm provides management and technology consulting and engineering services to leading Fortune 500 corporations, governments, and not-for-profits across the globe. Booz Allen partners with public and private sector clients to solve their most difficult challenges through a combination of consulting, analytics, mission operations, technology, systems delivery, cybersecurity, engineering, and innovation expertise. To learn more, visit www.boozallen.com. (NYSE: BAH).

Booz Allen’s digital listening capabilities combine expertise in emerging technology and public health to provide real-time insights on various facets of population health. Epidemico’s portfolio serves as a trusted resource for the public, government officials, regulatory agencies, life sciences, hospitality, and financial companies. The Booz Allen product Epidemico is uniquely able to offer a platform that is both rapidly accessible and specifically customizable to client needs.

For a demo of SupplyChainMap-China and to discuss R&D partnership opportunities, please contact us at info@epidemico.com.

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