Food safety law boosts tracking technology sector

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

In The Washington Post, reporter Lyndsey Layton digs into the industry spawned by a requirement in last year’s food safety law that producers and processors be able to track food at every step of its journey from farm to supermarket. It applies to everything but meat, poultry and egg products.

Under the law, each business will need to know where the food came from and where it’s going, creating a chain of provenance that the FDA can use to more rapidly trace outbreaks of food-borne illness.

As the September deadline for the launch of the FDA’s first pilot projects looms, Layton writes, no single tracking technology yet predominates. After the pilots, the FDA will report to congress and issue specific rules by 2013.

According to Layton, some food industry segments (not farms or restaurants) have been required to track this data since 2005, “but according to a 2009 investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, most food facilities surveyed did not meet those requirements and 25 percent didn’t even know about the law.”

Layton’s story includes a profile of HarvestMark, a company whose barcode sticker is already catching on in some places (Kroger foods has adopted it for store-brand produce, for example). HarvestMark not only allows end consumers to scan their food with a smartphone and figure out where it came from, it also allows them to deliver their feedback to the farmer who produced it.

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