Leafy Green Traceability Pilots

The test program reveals the value of sharing extended product data during a traceback investigation. 

December 04, 2020

CHICAGO—A group of six industry organizations has released a report outlining four months of leafy green traceability pilots with supply chain partners, including growers, distributors and both independent and chain retailers, offering a detailed response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s call for improved traceability in the food system.

The pilots, conducted July through October, showed that investigations into foodborne illness outbreaks could be streamlined and conducted more effectively when supply chain partners provided extended product information during tracebacks. Additionally, the use of a standard template called the Produce Traceback Template to exchange pertinent product information was found to enhance the speed of tracing procedures. All three pilots were successful in tracing the source of the affected product.

FMI—The Food Industry Association, GS1 US, the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) led the test. The pilots tracked romaine lettuce through three separate supply chains, starting with actual consumer purchases made with loyalty cards or credit cards.

Small teams of industry experts mimicked the FDA’s role in conducting the traceback, including determining the data to be requested, and how to format the requests for such data. 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.

“As outlined in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, pilots like these are necessary to determine what is needed for traceability to further scale, such as testing interoperability and public and private data sharing,” said Bryan Hitchcock, executive director of IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center, on behalf of the six organizations, in a press release. “The pilots provided valuable insights that will inform future outbreak response and recall protocols, helping industry to work together to support the FDA’s focus on tech-enabled traceability.”

Did you know that NACS offers an online food safety certification program? Retail operators can earn a Certified Convenience Foodservice Management (CCFM) designation by completing a 10-course online training series which tackles the key aspects of developing and growing a successful foodservice offer. Learn more here.