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Traceability in Produce

2 minute read

We are all familiar with the fleshy, seed-associated sweet or sour structure of a plant, and the edible plant matter that was originally collected from the wild by hunters and gatherers – or more commonly known as fruits and veggies. You have so many choices in both groups: fruits such as berries, apples, mangoes, grapes, and vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, eggplants, peppers, or the lucky tomato, which often gets pulled in both directions (though officially deemed by the United States Supreme Court in 1893 as a vegetable).

The opportunities are endless for where fruits and vegetables go after they are picked and sold. Spices such as paprika, vanilla, and allspice are derived from berries. Oils, beers, wines, desserts, jams, juices – all contain traces of these plants. Not to mention all of the nonfood uses. Most of us only see or know what happens with produce after you purchase it. But what many don’t think about is that produce has a whole other life before it ends up on the shelf. Many factors can contribute to produce contamination. Soil can be contaminated, crops might be hydrated with contaminated water, or wild animals can come into contact with crops. Produce can also encounter harmful bacteria during or after harvest if it’s not handled, stored, or transported appropriately.

Contamination happens, and recalls are inevitable. The issue is when an outbreak occurs, and no one knows where that product came from, or it takes them an extensive amount of time to figure it out. Knowing the trail of that item can lead us back to where the issue began so that it can be rectified in a timelier manner. Currently, many fruits and vegetables are simply secured with a twist tie or rubber band or labeled with a sticker that shows nothing more than the PLU number and the name of the item, if that. The idea of variable print data on produce seems necessary to more quickly dissolve issues like these. It’s a solution that allows for the current process to remain almost the same.

With advanced technology like the ATS Thermal Transfer Printer integrated with a banding machine, certain produce can be banded with material that has individualized information printed on it, including but not limited to the PLU, barcode, distributor, and the farm where it was grown. With a simple swap like this in the process, outbreaks can be detected and traced back to the source instantly and reduce the risk of sicknesses, diseases, and even deaths.

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