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
sprayer applying bactericides to citrus trees
Insect & Disease Update
January 24, 2017
New Product Called on to Defend Citrus From Scourge
Mycoshield is a bactericide approved to take aim at HLB-infected trees. Read More
Port Tampa Bay shipping channel
Citrus
January 24, 2017
Trump Withdraws U.S. From Trans-Pacific Partnership
Fresh produce export market to hit a wall with signing of executive order. Read More
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under 55 Years Old
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus Greening Research
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Postbloom Fruit Drop symptoms on Florida ctirus
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Postbloom Fruit Drop
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimum Wage 30% by Next Year
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
a trio of peaches
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Specialty Crops
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Receives Cornell’s Excellence in IPM Award 
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine Industry
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
The Latest
Insect & Disease Update
January 24, 2017
New Product Called on to Defend Citrus F…
Mycoshield is a bactericide approved to take aim at HLB-infected trees. Read More
Citrus
January 24, 2017
Trump Withdraws U.S. From Trans-Pacific …
Fresh produce export market to hit a wall with signing of executive order. Read More
Vegetables
January 23, 2017
The Northwest Has the Most Growers Under…
Survey respondents in the Northwest are more likely to grow organically, avoid genetically modified crops [GMOs], and more likely to Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
California Lands $5 Million for Citrus G…
The USDA grant will be used to create and identify possible solutions for a cure. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
January 23, 2017
Florida Citrus Growers on Alert for Post…
After the worst outbreak in years, growers should be wary of this disorder. Read More
More Vegetables
January 23, 2017
California Garlic Grower to Raise Minimu…
Christopher Ranch commits to $15 per hour minimum wages for all employees by 2018. Read More
GenNext Growers
January 21, 2017
$8.8M Available to Support Ag Programs a…
Grants designed to attract, retain students in agricultural fields. Read More
Fruits
January 20, 2017
Insecticide Label Expanded to Many Speci…
Sivanto Prime from Bayer can now be used in foliar form on stone fruit and caneberries, and for soil use on leafy and brassica vegetables. Read More
Cucurbits
January 20, 2017
Renowned Researcher Margaret McGrath Rec…
A plant pathologist, McGrath’s expertise has helped both organic and conventional growers fight late blight, downy mildew, and others.  Read More
Grapes
January 20, 2017
Live Reports on the State of the Wine In…
The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, by far the nation’s largest winegrape conference, is happening this week in Sacramento, CA. Read More
Farm Marketing
January 20, 2017
Direct Marketing Revenue Topped $8 Billi…
USDA has released its first-ever survey on direct marketing, and it shows that the local food industry is huge. Read More
Citrus
January 20, 2017
Farming Will Always Have a Place in Flor…
Growers are resilient and agriculture will survive in our state and elsewhere. It has to, if we want food on our plates. Read More
Disease Control
January 20, 2017
Don’t Let Stemphylium Leaf Spot St…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this vegetable disease. Read More
Disease Control
January 19, 2017
Clues Found to Block Late Blight’s…
With food security at stake, breakthrough in genetic research could help prevent more strains of the deadly pathogen from entering the U.S. Read More
Grapes
January 19, 2017
U.S. Challenges Canadian Trade Measures …
Trade enforcement action challenges British Columbia regulations that unfairly exclude U.S. wine from grocery store shelves. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
Trump Taps Sonny Perdue for Secretary of…
Ag leaders applaud pick to head up USDA. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New York Representatives Introduce Bill …
Legislators say the move aligns the program in the department to better fit the needs of agriculture businesses. Read More
Citrus
January 19, 2017
New Technology Could Take Weather Intel …
Scientists aiming to make difficult climate-based production decisions easier for growers. Read More