With the recent salmonella outbreak, and the subsequent task of tracking down the correct source of contamination, demand for clearer producer lines are causing supermarkets and distributors around the country to examine the need for food safety system. According to a recent article on MSNBC.com, outdated records and older technology contributed to the salmonella confusion, resulting in both tomatoes and jalapenos being fingered for the outbreak.
Dr. David Acheson, the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety chief, says a better tracing system needs three key components: a unique identifier that follows each food item from field to consumer, electronic record keeping and a common framework for sharing information among all the players.
“It is unquestionable that we need to put more emphasis on the importance of traceability,” said Acheson. “Tracing foods back can be really tough, or pretty straightforward, depending on the system.”
With recent financial losses of nearly $250 million for the tomato industry alone, many are changing their tune on a government regulated “traceback” system.
“My impression is that before this tomato-pepper outbreak, the industry really didn’t want traceback, because if they had a problem they didn’t want it traced to a specific grower,” said Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia. “Now, seeing that what can happen can shut down the whole industry, I would think it’s to their advantage to enable traceback investigations to focus on the source.”