Early on the FDA linked the salmonella strain to fresh tomatoes, taking a 40% chunk from California's tomato sales. RFID to the rescue?
Spinach disappeared from grocery store shelves in September 2006. The Food and Drug Administration recalled E. coli-tainted leaves after hundred of people fell ill. Earlier this year the FDA thought people were getting sick from tomatoes. So, the government recalled them, too.
The tomato industry lost tens of millions of dollars until the FDA discovered, perhaps, they had pointed the finger at the wrong food. Now a jalapeno pepper grown in Mexico and stored at Texas border town warehouse has tested positive for the same rare strain of salmonella that led federal disease investigators astray for nearly two months.
On July 19, Grande Produce began recalling jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, and avocados because of a possible Salmonella outbreak. Agricola Zaragoza followed by recalling jalapeno peppers on Monday, July 21, for similar reasons.
The New York Times reports the strain found on the jalapenos, Salmonella Saintpaul, was a genetic match to the strain found in lab tests of many of the 1,251 people who have become sick from salmonella poisoning over the past three months.
Too bad there's an under used technology called radio frequency identification that could help track and trace the produce. At least two companies are giving it a go, developing a suite of applications to get a handle on th messed-up food chain.
IBM and Matiq, the information technology subsidiary of Nortura, Norway's largest food supplier, earlier this month announced a project to develop an RFID system to track and trace poultry and meats from farms, through the supply chain, to supermarkets.
The application is based on IBM's WebSphere RFID Information Center software. It will help guarantee meat and poultry are kept at the correct temperature as it travels through the supply chain. The system complies with GS1 EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) standard, which allows sharing of RFID data across and between enterprises.
Norwegian suppliers and supermarkets using EPCIS-compliant software will have an option to monitor and analyze their entire supply chain, with a goal to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.
Are Bergquist, Matiq CEO, says the company will develop the system for its parent company and sell it to a variety of food growers, distributors and grocery stores. "We are working on a portfolio of projects that we'll work on through the year and beginning of next," he says. "The solutions will be applicable in a variety of industries and countries."
Perhaps someone should hurry them along a bit. We could use the system now.