The recent outbreak of E. coli across Europe demonstrates the urgent need for condition monitoring of fresh produce – especially the critical importance of electronically tracking and tracing fruits and vegetables from the field to the retailer with one of the biggest benefits being tracking the information about the produce’s origination and history on a tag that’s kept with the produce.
The outbreak, which has already resulted in 17 deaths, seems to be centered around Hamburg, Germany but, as of the moment, no one has yet determined where the culprit produce originated or what type of produce is responsible. Pallet-level temperature monitoring and product tracing are components that can help to alleviate (though not necessarily prevent) these issues. Because biotoxin growth accelerates when temperatures increase, monitoring produce temperatures from the field to the retailer can help to identify temperature conditions that can promote bacterial growth. In-pallet temperature monitors can help to track the temperatures and provide real-time insight into the condition of the produce. When high temperatures are noted, you can pull and test the produce before it gets into consumers’ hands.
The second aspect of the issue is traceability. Tracking the origin of produce using paper-based systems takes time. While officials sort through mounds of paper, potentially contaminated food continues to work its way through the cold chain into the hands of consumers. By tracking information about the origin and travel history of the produce with the pallet, significant amounts of time could be saved that could limit the spread of an outbreak.
Available technology can help to alleviate and address the spread of dangerous produce throughout the supply chain and minimize dangerous biotoxin outbreaks and the Food Safety Modernization Act and Produce Traceability Initiative will mandate changes.
Senior Director of Marketing