Improved Food Safety Through Traceability

Produce Traceability

The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 has been described by industry experts as the "most sweeping overhaul of food regulations in decades," aimed at reducing food-borne illness and contamination at every step of the food distribution chain, from the field to the grocery shelf.

A key element of the act of the act requires food companies to constantly assess risk and verify food safety. It calls for developing new standards and documentation for traceability "from farm to fork," according to an article in the trade journal Supply and Demand Chain Executive.  

Traceability can be a challenge, especially in the field. Mobile solutions, such as we've developed here at T3 Technologies, can greatly assist in the gathering and reporting of fast amounts of data the FSMA is looking for in traceability. The advantages of traceability, however, go beyond meeting a federal mandate.

Consumers Demand More Info

Consumers want more information on where their food comes from, and has the means to get it. If the transparency of a food product's supply chain isn't made available, hyperconnected shoppers will take their smart phones and scan the bar codes of other choices. It's not enough to label a food item as a Product of the USA, Mexico or China. They want to know the specific location of where it was grown, and even conditions under which it was grown.

When recalls trace a food-borne illness to a specific farm, consumers want to scan the broccoli they just bought to be sure it didn't come from that farm. Polls suggest transparent produce traceability can increase sales.

Customer-Activated Recall

With accurate traceability, any company in the supply chain can quickly initiate its own recall for product quality or safety, sometimes before the food is ever bought  by the consumer. Tracking down down where a line of food stuffs originated used to take days and sometimes weeks. T3 Produce Scan can show the information of where the product was harvested, not just locating the farm but the GPS coordinates to show what field and row. The scan can even show who harvested the product. That type of instant, mobile information in traceability can make recalls when they do occur more timely and focused, and less costly.

Human, Economic and Political Costs

Whenever a food-borne illness prompts a major government recall, there are costs that go well beyond the bills for recovering tainted products. Foremost, of course, is the human cost of people who become ill or die. The sooner the source of the food-borne illness can be traced and tainted products retrieved or removed from distribution, the fewer people who will be affected by the outbreak.

Delays in discovering the actual source of the outbreak can result in an economic blow to an entire growing region. If initial reports identify a crop from a specific state as being the suspected cause, public confidence in the state's entire harvest of that crop will fall. Even after the source is eventually traced to a specific farm, warehouse or processing plant, it takes time to win back the buying public's confidence.

Political responses to such outbreaks are often swift and misdirected, raising costs without providing increased safety. When traceability results in a swift, focused removal of a food product from grocery stores and effective public notice of the recall, politicians and the public are reassured that the system is working, and the food they buy that includes transparent traceability is safe.

That's a benefit to all of us.

Tags: produce traceability

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