Food Safety And Produce Traceability Plans

Rosemary Gordon

Growing up, when something broke around the house, one of my brothers would say — as a joke — “Better get some duct tape.” This saying wasn’t something they came up with on their own. Duct tape was dubbed the be-all-and-end-all problem solver by my grandfather. He was a firm believer in the adhesive power of duct tape to fix just about anything.

Unfortunately, duct tape isn’t going to solve our current food safety problems. You all know the story — all too well, I’m afraid. Just when you think things are calming down, another foodborne illness outbreak is fodder for the media.

The first foodborne illness outbreak that arguably hit growers the hardest occurred in 2006 when bags of spinach contaminated with E. coli made their way through the distribution chain. Then last summer, tomatoes were cited as the culprit of a Salmonella outbreak, costing U.S. tomato producers millions of dollars. And in the end, the source wasn’t tomatoes; it was peppers from Mexico. There were, and I’m sure still are, very angry tomato growers who were erroneously called on the carpet for their produce.
 

Lettuce, too, has been at the heart of foodborne illness investigations, and now it is peanut butter. This latest foodborne illness outbreak is really growing legs, especially since peanut butter is an ingredient in so many food products.

Resolving The Problem

There are so many places where produce can be contaminated — from the farm to how it is handled by the end consumer. The questions are: When an outbreak occurs, how do we determine where the contamination took place? How do we make sure we are targeting the correct food item as the culprit? And, how do we go about successfully tracing back the product to the source of the outbreak?

Well, as usual, there isn’t a simple solution. As we all know, FDA was at the heart of last summer’s tomato debacle. I was with some tomato growers who visited FDA at the United Public Policy Conference last September. They wanted some explanations as to why their produce was falsely accused of being the source of contamination. Now, there is talk of overhauling FDA. 

In fact, last month legislation was introduced to possibly divide FDA into two agencies. One agency would be for food safety and the other would be for the regulation of drugs and medical devices.

Industry Efforts

While talk continues in Washington, some industry groups are making moves of their own. Specifically, the United Fresh Produce Association, the Produce Marketing Association, and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association have launched a website, Producetraceability.org. To back up just a bit, this group started its Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) in October 2007. The initiative is an industry-led effort to adopt traceability throughout the produce supply chain.

The new website includes resources and educational tools for those wanting to learn more about PTI, a list of companies that support PTI, a bulletin board and question and answer section for industry questions and discussion, a news and events section, a press room containing recent news releases, and contact information.

The overall plan involves adopting a standardized system of case bar-coding for all produce sold in the U.S., so product can be tracked throughout the distribution chain. The idea here is that a standardized system could significantly improve the industry’s ability to narrow the impact of product recalls.

That just might be music to growers’ ears. And it won’t require any duct tape.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Food Safety And Produce Traceability Plans

  1. I have a very small farm and I grow vegetables that are sold locally at the Farmer’s Market – the current bills before both the House and the Senate will put me and all the other small growers out of business. These bills are great for big companies, big growers – they can afford to do this, but it really steps on the toes of the tiny farmers like myself who rarely make a profit to begin with.

    The problems of e-coli in produce was traced back to unsanitary practices in other countries (workers defecating in fields), not someone who sells a few pounds of tomatoes at the local farmer’s market.

    The peanut problems were all based on the horrible santitary practices in a processing plant – farmers did not cause that!

    The assumption of many small growers is that large growers support these efforts because you can then get rid of the small growers. Like me.

  2. I have a very small farm and I grow vegetables that are sold locally at the Farmer’s Market – the current bills before both the House and the Senate will put me and all the other small growers out of business. These bills are great for big companies, big growers – they can afford to do this, but it really steps on the toes of the tiny farmers like myself who rarely make a profit to begin with.

    The problems of e-coli in produce was traced back to unsanitary practices in other countries (workers defecating in fields), not someone who sells a few pounds of tomatoes at the local farmer’s market.

    The peanut problems were all based on the horrible santitary practices in a processing plant – farmers did not cause that!

    The assumption of many small growers is that large growers support these efforts because you can then get rid of the small growers. Like me.

Featured Stories
Port Tampa Bay shipping channel
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Panama Canal Expansion To Bring Trade Opportunities To Florida
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says a confluence of events is putting the state's producers in a good spot to open new markets. Read More
anti-GMO corn spoof via social media
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat [Opinion]
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineering will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Fruits
May 24, 2016
Organic Food Sales Hit Record $43.3 Billion In 2015
Organic Trade Association says organic fruits and vegetables logged sales of $14.4 billion. Read More
CA- Winegrape Vineyard
Grapes
May 24, 2016
Sea Change Coming To California Winegrape Landscape
Vines continue to be pulled from the state’s interior, while planting is expected to increase along coast and in Delta area. Read More
non-gmo label leafy greens
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human Health
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Florida Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam checks out prepared school lunches. School meals are looking more colorful these days as fresh produce finds a place on the tray.
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-To-School Programs
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyphosate Not Carcinogenic
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Food safety meeting for growers in Florida
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On Front Burner
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Example of cucurbit yellow stunting disorder virus
Cucurbits
May 21, 2016
Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus Cases Flaring In South Florida
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
nutcracker crunching down on a walnut
Nuts
May 20, 2016
Bank Predicts A Roller Coaster Ride For Tree Nut Industry
Supply expected to grow by more than one-third in next five years, but decreasing demand may lower prices. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Panama Canal Expansion To Bring Trade Op…
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says a confluence of events is putting the state's producers in a good spot to open new markets. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Social Media Posts On GMOs Falling Flat …
Hopefully, the hysteria the West has perpetuated on genetic engineering will not stifle the potential of moving our production forward enough to help feed a growing global population. Read More
Fruits
May 24, 2016
Organic Food Sales Hit Record $43.3 Bill…
Organic Trade Association says organic fruits and vegetables logged sales of $14.4 billion. Read More
Grapes
May 24, 2016
Sea Change Coming To California Winegrap…
Vines continue to be pulled from the state’s interior, while planting is expected to increase along coast and in Delta area. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Report Says GMOs Offer No Risk To Human …
The study stresses the need for proper resistance management, the need for a different ways to evaluate all new crop varieties, regardless of process in which they were developed. Read More
Citrus
May 24, 2016
Full-Time Effort Required To Feed Farm-T…
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam gives a shout-out to those providing fuel to kids during the school year as well as the summer months. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
World Health Organization Experts: Glyph…
Risk unlikely when consuming crops treated with herbicide. Read More
Citrus
May 23, 2016
Florida Growers Putting Food Safety On F…
Specialty crop industry stakeholders hungry to understand what’s ahead as FDA begins implementing new food safety rules. Read More
Cucurbits
May 21, 2016
Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder Virus …
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
Nuts
May 20, 2016
Bank Predicts A Roller Coaster Ride For …
Supply expected to grow by more than one-third in next five years, but decreasing demand may lower prices. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
May 20, 2016
Yara International Pledges $100,000 To S…
Scholarship will fund University of Florida undergraduate and graduate students. Read More
Citrus
May 20, 2016
Florida Farmland Becoming Big Deal For I…
Real estate values in the Sunshine State dictated by money looking for a home. Read More
Citrus
May 19, 2016
Bayer Makes Bid For Monsanto
Monsanto says proposal is being reviewed by board of directors as well as legal and financial advisors. Read More
GenNext Growers
May 19, 2016
Get To Know Rory Crowley Of The Almond L…
The assistant operations manager and director of business and research development for the Nicolaus Nut Company, Rory Crowley talks about how the Almond Leadership Program helped him prepare for the future. Read More
Disease Control
May 19, 2016
Native Plants Reduce Need For Vineyard W…
Scientists in eastern Washington are finding drought-tolerant alternatives to roses at the end of vineyard rows that not only save Read More
Grapes
May 18, 2016
Minnesota Has New Cold-Hardy, Lower-Acid…
The University of Minnesota has released a new cold-hardy grape that holds promise for winemakers wanting to make dryer wines Read More
Farm Management
May 17, 2016
Tour De Fresh Cycling Event Will Raise F…
The goal for 2016 is to place 50 additional salad bars in schools across the country. Read More
Citrus
May 17, 2016
$130 Million In Funds For Fruit And Vege…
USDA allocates funds for Extension, organic production, food safety, and technology grants. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]