Page 64

PACKAGING

Fruit and vegetable farmers labelled a success ©iStockphoto.com/Jim Jurica

Modern labelling ensures farmers protect their place in the fresh produce distribution system Karl Perry, Intermec US Product Manager, Printers

News of pathogen outbreaks in the past caused alarm bells to start ringing for not just one, but many fresh food producers, as it took weeks to determine the precise location of the outbreak. In the meantime, farmers had to sit back and watch as millions of dollars’ worth of a full growing season’s produce was needlessly destroyed in search of the source.

T

his enormous waste has placed pressure on regulatory bodies responsible for food safety to better manage the risk of outbreaks by putting in place requirements for access to more food production information. These regulatory bodies are also running strong educational campaigns to communicate, often through media, to the general public the need to adhere to best practice food safety, as well as submit complaints related to food poisoning. With this knowledge at the forefront of their minds, it is also impacting on consumer attitudes towards food safety across the board. They are now joining regulators in demanding that the entire supply chain - from farm to fork - be able to trace and account for where fresh produce is grown, where it is going and how long it remains at any given point along the way.

Farming is moving away from its low-tech roots While the norm for many years has been for fruit and vegetable growers to put a simple UPC barcode or product type identifier label - such as ‘Red Delicious Apples’ - on boxes of produce, these traditional methods are no longer sufficient for the current fresh produce distribution system. The food industry is becoming more interconnected with the rise of multinational food processing and retail companies. With this shift comes increased pressures of controlling food safety liability and introducing supply chain management to an international standard. For farmers, this means mov64

Mar/Apr 2014

ing away from their low-tech roots and towards automation. Some farmers are now using a range of technologies including GPS to track the exact location where a box of fruit or vegetables was picked, RFID tracking pallets and a subset of GS1 barcodes to make pallets traceable as they move through the supply chain. These technologies arm them with a range of solutions that can be used to create modern labels that detail the date and individual planted field where an item was picked. The availability of this kind of label that follows a product at every stage along the supply chain offers enhanced accountability and places regulators in a better position to pinpoint the source of pathogen outbreaks much faster. This greatly reduces the scale of what must be recalled, saving millions of dollars in losses for farmers and lessening the stress for concerned consumers. For farmers, the foremost advantage of traceable labelling when it comes to pathogen outbreaks is that they can quickly be eliminated as the source and their food need not be recalled. This saves them money at the front end of their business, but also at the back end by avoiding litigation. Of course, there is also the potential that traceability will mean a farmer’s produce is found to be the source of the pathogen outbreak; however, it is very likely that awareness that their produce is traceable will make farmers even more careful to ensure they are not the source of an outbreak.

www.foodprocessing.com.au

What’s New in Food Technology Mar/April 2014  

The most comprehensive coverage of new products and technology developments from companies supplying and servicing the food and beverage ind...

What’s New in Food Technology Mar/April 2014  

The most comprehensive coverage of new products and technology developments from companies supplying and servicing the food and beverage ind...