A number of highly publicized food scares have swept through the global food chain in recent years. Headlines include the outbreaks of E. coli and norovirus at Chipotle, Salmonella linked to Foster Farms poultry, melamine adulterated infant formula in China, and Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter leading to the imprisonment of the former CEO of Peanut Corporation of America. These events highlight vulnerabilities in the food safety chain that present opportunities and risks for investors.

To this end, the food industry is undergoing a transformation as it addresses food safety risks in an increasingly global, complex supply chain. Food safety encompasses the practices and conditions promoted across a food supply chain with the intention of ensuring food quality and preventing contamination and foodborne illness.

In this report, “Food Safety: In a State of Transformation,” we examine major food safety events that have affected publicly traded US companies over the last 25 years. We identify the behavioral/demographic, regulatory, and technological factors acting as catalysts for the food industry’s transition towards increasingly proactive and innovative food safety strategies. To assess the opportunities and risks associated with this transition, we evaluate the food safety practices of nearly 60 companies throughout the food supply chain. Data is aggregated at each level of the supply chain and key findings are discussed.

Converging forces impacting food safety

Converging forces impacting food safety.jpg

Source: Cornerstone Capital Group

We highlight three areas of food safety innovation for investors wishing to gain exposure to the food safety theme: 1) Food testing and analysis; 2) supply chain technology; and 3) automation and robotics. We present a list of 30+ companies that offer food safety solutions and rate their level of exposure. We also offer industry-level observations that may lead to additional avenues of inquiry.

Cornerstone Capital Group is pleased to have had the opportunity to produce this report on behalf of the Investor Responsibility Research Center (IRRC) Institute.  For more information please visit  irrcinstitute.org.

To download the full report, please click here.


Michael Shavel is a Global Thematic Analyst at Cornerstone Capital Group. Prior to joining the firm, Michael was a Research Analyst on the Global Growth and Thematic team at Alliance Bernstein. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Rutgers University and is a CFA Charterholder.

Sebastian Vanderzeil is a Research Analyst with Cornerstone Capital Group. He holds an MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business. Previously, Sebastian was an economic consultant with global technical services group AECOM, where he advised on the development and finance of major infrastructure across Asia and Australia. Sebastian also worked with the Queensland State Government on water and climate issues prior to establishing Australia’s first government-owned carbon broker, Ecofund Queensland.

Andy Zheng is a Research Associate at Cornerstone Capital Group. Andy graduated from Bowdoin College with an interdisciplinary major in Mathematics and Economics and a minor in Visual Arts. He spent his junior year studying abroad at the University of Oxford and the summer prior to that at the Sorbonne in Paris.