Photo: avlxyz (flickr)
Tracking Food-Borne Illness
Thanks to pressure from the federal food safety law and consumer concern about the many food-borne illnesses that gained national attention over the last few years, the ability to track food from production to plate is increasingly important.
Part of the problem with food-borne illness outbreaks is how difficult it is to trace where the pathogens came from and where the food was sold. But now with the backing of the new law and an ever increasing amounts of affordable technology, food traceability development is booming.
This focus on traceability could prove to be a tricky new way of doing business for some farmers, especially those who still use paper records.
There’s An App For That
Some food producers are barcoding their food so that when it’s scanned by a smart phone the consumer can see where it’s from, if it’s been recalled, and contact information for the producer. Other application designers have made apps that grade the product on a health scale, show results of restaurants’ health inspections, and demystify labels.
HarvestMark, a California developer that is used by more than 200 companies including Kroger’s, has made a barcode system that traces the path a food product has taken from the farm to where it was purchased. Often, if the consumer does not have a smart phone, the barcode number can be entered on a website to retrieve the same information.
Supporters and traceability developers say that using technology in this way can help consumers make more informed decisions about the food they buy and will help stop food-borne illnesses from spreading so quickly. These systems help to keep food producers accountable for their products while making sense of the vast amount of information available about the product.
Government-Sponsored, In Canada
Although traceability barcodes are currently a private operation in America, the Canadian government announced that it awarded $3.7 million to the Canadian Pork Council (CPC) to help develop a traceability system. CPC reports, “The animal movement information we will collect will be used to contain and reduce the spread of foreign swine diseases so they can be eliminated.”