Food Traceability: Fed Ex for the food chain


I just ate a banana.
It was grown by the Molina family on their farm in Ecuador’s El Oro province on the southwest coast.
I saw its organic certification from the USDA, and when it was loaded onto a ship in Guayaquil Bay, I could see that it was joined by bananas from two other organic farms.

I know all of this because Dole practices traceability, a concept that is being embraced by more and more growers and manufacturers. Traceability lets consumers trace the origins of their food—not just to a country, but to a specific farm or processor.

Recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have made us aware of the shortcomings of our current food safety infrastructure. With each incident, we watch the rising toll of illness and fatalities, as regulators scramble to identify the source of the contamination, ultimately crossing their fingers and casting a wide recall net in hopes of containing the outbreak. This summer’s massive egg recall is a clear example: more than 1,600 people were sickened by salmonella as federal investigators spent weeks winding through private accounting records and public health databases before finally unearthing the source of the contamination. Traceability provides a quick and streamlined discovery process.

FedEx has done it for years.
Order a book from Amazon and you can track its progress right to your door. FedEx identifies each incident of transportation and  package handling along the route. There is a path of accountability every step of the way.

Not everyone is a fan.
Traceability has its detractors all along the food chain.
Small farmers worry about the cost of the technology needed to comply to one-size-fits-all safety regulations. Producers overseas might not have access to the necessary technology. And in the fast food industry, where a single hamburger patty might contain the ground-up meat of hundreds of cattle from multiple countries, there is resistance to the increased  transparency.

One thing we can all agree on is that our current system of food safety is broken.

Dole organic bananas, Stone-Buhr flour, Frito-Lay chips, Just BARE chicken, Harvest Mark-labeled produce, and Repulica del Cacoa chocolate are just some of the producers that currently practice traceability from farm to table.


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5 Responses to Food Traceability: Fed Ex for the food chain

  1. Interesting thoughts for debate. I agree with Spice Sherpa on the red flag issue. I can also see that it would be impossible to know why we could not get that same information, at least where smaller companies are concerned. I guess like everything else the results would be a bit muddles if we judged based on these factors, until at least it was available to the mass?

  2. Lora says:

    Great food for thought. Very interesting.

  3. lovely post it is good to know where the food is coming from and all the ingredients in it

  4. G Martin says:

    I have to agree. As a consumer, I have the right to know where my food came from. I also want to know if it’s GMO food.

  5. If a corporation has the resources to implement traceability but fights because of transparency—red flag. Yet people will continue to shovel that crap into their system. I love the idea of traceability. That would be so interesting with spices!

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