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Thomas R. Cutler outlines the traceability solutions we need to deal with the increasing incidence of food contamination Farmtofork 10 www. bus- ex. com October 08

T October 08 www. bus- ex. com 11 Supply chain he most susceptible to food- borne illness are the very young, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. Most people who eat food tainted with E. coli are rarely sick enough to see a doctor, so the actual number of infections may be a hundred times greater than the offi cial counts. Boston Globe correspondents Elizabeth Cooney and Neil Munshi reported that seven people in Massachusetts fell ill, ( most likely) after eating beef sold at Whole Foods Market, and that the contamination is a major blow to a chain that promotes its food as superior to that in typical grocery stores, and that is already struggling in this weak economy. Meat tainted with the E. coli bacteria can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in severe cases, kidney failure. This incident is the third time in summer 2008 when consumers have feared for the safety of food products in their homes. It started in June with tomatoes suspected of being tainted with salmonella, but the cause turned out to be serrano and jalapeño peppers. That scare was followed by contaminated ground beef at the Kroger grocery chain. This most recent cause for food safety concern is Whole Foods supplier, Coleman Natural Beef, whose meat is processed by Nebraska Beef Ltd., ( also involved in the Kroger contamination.) Despite assurances from Coleman that no product delivered to Whole Foods Market was part of the Kroger contamination, some question that assertion. Image and the bottom line Neither for public safety or company reputations is there ever a good time for a contamination outbreak. It is an especially bad time for Whole Foods to have this type of notoriety, as customers are returning to standard grocery retailers due to a tough economy. This is more than merely a public relations challenge for Whole Foods Markets, but fl ies in the face of the company motto that its food products are from premium sources that are healthier and better for the consumer. The mere inference that Whole Foods Markets is connected to E. coli may severely damage the brand. Gary Nowacki, CEO of TraceGains, suggested that, " Technology solutions utilizing ' positively assured traceability' enable cross- enterprise traceability, without the participants needing to re- architect their IT infrastructure… true farm- to- fork traceability, including all owners and handlers, and transformative processes." TraceGains has specialized expertise in providing live animal- to- carcass- to-cut- to- retailer tracking. Traceability solutions must link live animals to individual meat cuts Unlike lot traceability that is mandated by the Bioterrorism Act or part of a food company' s HACCP ( Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), few technology solutions allow integration of available live animal data. Nowacki urges, " Meat processors must be able to uniquely track animals from packing plant arrival through fabrication to meat cut shipment, as well as handling individual animals or lots based upon plant size and traceability requirements." Other specifi c traceability features that meat processors must consider include: • Tracing meat cuts and shipping boxes back to the original animal( s) • Tracking each animal to its respective meat cuts and shipping boxes • Recording the weights of individual cuts and associating them with the individual animal • Generating a unique barcode label required for both the individual package and shipping box • Sharing individual meat cut information with reseller