A group of food industry organizations has released a report that outlines four months of leafy green traceability pilot programs with supply chain partners, including growers, distributors, and independent and chain retailers. The researchers found that investigations into foodborne illness outbreaks could be streamlined and conducted more effectively when supply chain members provide extended product information during tracebacks.
Additionally, the investigators found that use of a standard template to exchange pertinent product information enhanced 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 purchases made with loyalty cards or credit cards. Small teams of industry experts mimicked FDA’s role in conducting the traceback, including determining which data was to be requested and how to format the requests for such data. Supply chain members used the template to provide key data elements that allowed an item to be traced back to its source.
Notably, 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, according to a statement released by the organizations. “These data included business intelligence such as sales data, stock rotation, inventory controls, and delivery schedules. These were critical in bracketing the scope of the traceback.”
“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,” said Bryan Hitchcock, executive director of the Institute of Food Technologists Global Food Traceability Center, in the statement.
The organizations that led this activity included FMI-The Food Industry Association, GS1 US, the International Foodservice Distributors Association, the Institute of Food Technologists, the Produce Marketing Association, and the United Fresh Produce Association.