Thesis subject

Governing food safety and sustainibility in food supply chains

Topic 1. Developing FSM-systems in a multi-stakeholder environment.

Food Safety Management-systems are designed on the bases of quality and safety goals. All the control activities are directed at reducing risks concerning food safety and reducing variety in quality output. The choice for the goals to be achieved on strategic level and on an operational level and the measures to be taken are ultimately made by a company. However, these decisions are taken in an environment in which different stakeholders from differing perspectives pose quality assurance requirements to that company. Especially when dealing with an international supply chain requirements to food quality and safety can be far apart. The quality and food safety output on which the demands are focussed can be labelled as a wicked problem i.e. a problem with multi-dimensions and possibly conflicting aspects. Within the companies, choices need to be made in which the technological infrastructure and the organizational capabilities need to be aligned in order to reach the goals.

In this research, an international supply chain will be focussed upon. For this supply chain (1) stakeholders will be identified, (2) the perception of the stakeholders of certain aspects of food quality and safety will be analysed, (3) the influence of these requirements of different stakeholders will be analysed from a technological and managerial angle.

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For more information please contact Geoffrey Hagelaar.

Topic 2. Tailoring FQM-systems to small and medium sized companies.

Food quality management systems have a tendency to be designed and to develop into a conglomerate of rules, norms and measurements, including training, tasks and responsibilities throughout the organisation and related to a managerial and technological infrastructure. From this point of view one can assume that fqm-systems are developed for the bigger companies which have the capacity to deal with all these presumed managerial and technological conditions. On the other hand, the majority of companies is not a bigger company but is a small or medium sized company. Those kind of companies are in a certain sense the mirror image of bigger companies. The organisation is rather informal, not that much specialisation of employees, different functions are intertwined including quality and the director-owner is leading from a strategic level to the operations. Flexibility is a characteristic of such companies and a strength.

In this setting a FQM-system is to be implemented which is apart from internal drivers, required as well by stakeholders as consumers, buying companies, (international) governments. Ultimately, the goal for big companies as well as for small and medium sized companies, is to produce products with a certain level of quality and safety. However, small and medium sized companies, because of their different organisational conditions compared to big companies, will cope with this task in a different manner. The thesis goal is to deepen the insight in how in the setting of small and medium companies cope with the organisational and technical requirements presumed by a FQM-system.


For more information please contact Geoffrey Hagelaar.

Topic 3. Developing a diagnostic to assess Food Sustainability to support the governance of sustainability.

Labelling and (third party) certification reflects a shift of public governance to private governance. Certification provides assurance to stakeholders about the production process and the product itself. The rise of private governance in the form of certification is in line with the globalization of the food supply chain. This has a consequence that an increasing amount of food is produced in other countries then it is consumed. The purchase of food stuffs is evidently done from suppliers who function under different regulatory regimes on food safety and food quality. Moreover, the speed in which new demands on food quality and food safety are introduced puts a strain on governmental agencies. Governmental agencies tend to lack behind the newest developments in production practices. This holds true not only for food quality but also for sustainability.

The effect of this trend is that not only governmental organizations, like the global WTO, is standard setting but also internationally operating retail organizations see themselves as standard setting organizations. For supermarkets, standard setting is not only targeted at governing the stakeholders in the supply chain to ultimately selling the product with the intended food safety and quality attributes. The standard is developing into a strategic issue as well with which new markets can be developed and penetrated. Sustainability seen as a food attribute is one of the characteristics of food stuffs which becomes increasingly important as a strategic attribute as well.
Because of the previously mentioned trend of the increasing usage of certification by retail organizations, the number of sustainability certification rises. With this increasing number of certificates, the overview of consumers or of representing consumer organizations becomes blurred. Every certificate seems to develop their own line of attention, which ends up in different sustainability issues taken into account by specific certificates. In this study, we want to address this variety of sustainability certificates by examining a bases for comparing sustainability certificates.

The master thesis focusses on the identification of critical decision points on measures taken in production and processing from the perspective of sustainability and assessing the impact of those decisions on the sustainability of the product. On the basis of the developed assessment instrument different sustainability labels can be compared and get an overview on the sustainability certificates.


For more information on this topic please contact Geoffrey Hagelaar.

Topic 4. Assessing the potential for large scale production of insects: a chain perspective.

The increasingly growing population puts great pressure for sustainable food production. Environmental and ethical concerns of the intensive traditional livestock production to feed the world population have been pointing out for the need to develop production for alternative supply of animal protein. Insects are a potential alternative because they are nutritious, easily reared requiring minimum space and can help limitation of the environmental footprint. However, to have a significant impact on the environment, the production of insects needs to be on a large scale and barriers such as consumer acceptance and requirements for the production and commercialization of these products need to be addressed.

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Previous research shows that the main bottlenecks for the expansion of large scale production of insects as human food are the lack of close collaboration between partners, the relationship with customers/consumers, and the lack of appropriate technical knowledge in insect rearing and processing. Multiple efforts throughout the insects supply chain must be made to allow for availability of insect on a large scale basis, especially aspects related to consumer orientation, chain collaboration and expansion of the current knowledge in insect production. The research will focus on potential successful strategies to build in these aspects to a larger extend in design of the entire insect chain.

For more information on this topic please contact Catriona Lakemond.