Six Food Industry Organizations Come Together to Release Findings of Leafy Greens Traceability Pilots
WASHINGTON, DC - Industry associations recently met at the roundtable to discuss leafy greens safety. The Food Industry Association (FMI), United Fresh Produce Association, Produce Marketing Association (PMA), GS1 US, International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) joined forces to release an exclusive report which outlines four months of leafy greens traceability pilots. Through these pilots, growers, distributors, and retailers offered a detailed response to the request by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (U.S. FDA) for improved traceability in the food system.
“As outlined in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, pilots like these are necessary to determine what is needed for traceability to further scale, such as testing interoperability and public and private data sharing,” said Bryan Hitchcock, Executive Director of IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center, on behalf of the six organizations. “The pilots provided valuable insights that will inform future outbreak response and recall protocols, helping industry to work together to support the FDA’s focus on tech-enabled traceability.”
The three pilots, conducted July through October, showed that investigations into foodborne illness outbreaks could be streamlined and conducted more effectively when supply chain partners provided extended product information during tracebacks. According to a press release, a standard template, the Produce Traceback Template, allows users to exchange pertinent product information to enhance the speed of tracing procedures. All of the pilots were successful in tracing the source of the affected product.
The pilots tracked romaine lettuce through three separate supply chains, starting with actual consumer purchase. Small teams of industry experts mimicked the U.S. FDA’s role in conducting the traceback, including determining the data to be requested and how to format the requests for such data. Supply chain members, starting with the point-of-sale or point-of-service, used the template to provide key data elements that allowed an item to be traced back to its source. The experts analyzed this information provided by each supply chain node to determine the next steps.
Although the participants stated they would adopt the template in the future, the pilots revealed opportunities to refine the template and highlighted the need for a greater focus on education. The pilot report outlines a path for future use of the template, including additional industry training and modifications to maximize effectiveness and increase ease of use.
The data that enabled each of the teams to independently and successfully identify the finished product lot purchased by the consumer is not currently captured by the template. This included business intelligence such as sales data, stock rotation, inventory controls, and delivery schedules, which were critical in bracketing the scope of the traceback.
More information on the pilots can be found here.
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