A recent pilot project showed some data gaps and offered suggestions to the Food and Drug Administration for improving traceability in the food system.

In all, six organizations took part in three pilots over a four-month time frame with supply chain partners like growers, distributors, and retailers. They used a standard “Produce Traceback Template” to track romaine lettuce through three separate supply chains and mimicked the FDA’s role in conducting the traceback.

Supply chain members, starting with the point-of-sale or point-of-service, used the template to provide key data elements that allowed an item to be traced back to its source. The expert groups conducting the traceback analyzed the information provided by each supply chain node to determine next steps.

Although the participants stated they would adopt the template in the future, the pilots revealed opportunities to refine the template and highlighted the need for a greater focus on education. The pilot report provides guidance on a path forward for future use of the template including additional industry training and modifications to maximize effectiveness and increase ease of use.

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Notably, the data that enabled each of the teams to independently and successfully identify the finished product lot purchased by the consumer is not currently captured by the template. These data included business intelligence such as sales data, stock rotation, inventory controls and delivery schedules. These were critical in bracketing the scope of the traceback.

The six organizations that led this industry activity included: FMI-The Food Industry Association; GS1 US; the International Foodservice Distributors Association; the Institute of Food Technologists; Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association.

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