Lately, I’ve been thinking the food and beverage industry has left no stone unturned in its quest to excel at producing safe, healthy foods while protecting its brands and overall security. As I mentioned in my editor’s note last month, Food Engineering is continuing to cover emerging topics such as IoT, TACCP and VACCP. This month, we focus on eliminating pathogens in produce and protecting plant networks from cyberattacks.

Recently, I read a report that shows other dangers may be knocking at your door. You know there is potential for harm lurking outside, but what has your company done to address it? Do you have safeguards that protect vulnerable and abused workers in your supply chain?

According to a report from global supplier risk management company Achilles, 19 percent of large food manufacturers don’t have a means of finding out the names and addresses of suppliers in their supply chain—a basic first step for identifying and ending worker abuse. Moreover, 53 percent of large firms state they don’t have a plan in the works to find out who is in their supply chain.

Forty-two large food manufacturers across the UK, US, Spain, Brazil, Asia, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East participated in the survey, which also reports 12 percent of food companies don’t have corporate standards which suppliers must adhere to, involving areas such as ethics and health and safety.

Late last year, Nestlé exposed worker abuse in Thailand’s seafood industry. According to the food industry giant, because of the general vulnerabilities of migrant workers in Thailand, virtually all European and US food companies that purchase seafood from that country are at risk of having the abuses in their supply chains as well.

Over the past decades, we’ve all seen the headlines and TV reports about working conditions in the clothing industry. It’s time to examine and eliminate any potential for this kind of abuse to take place in the food industry supply chain.