Samonella contamination of fresh produce like tomato, spinach and, jalapeno pepper, encountered during the last two years in some counties was an alarm signal regarding the risks involved in producing and marketing fresh vegetables, even if the hygiene infrastructure used in the packing sheds is of impeccable standards. The fact that food poisoning was not traced to the source even after 6 months of the first reported case highlights the practical constraints in ensuring absolute safety of these products. Supply chain logistics can be daunting since modern retailing involves sourcing from different regions and even outside the countries in some cases making it difficult to trace any contamination to the original source. Recent initiative in the US, is an attempt to overcome such traceability problems through administrative action and electronic based systems are being thought of to make such systems work more efficiently, reliably and fast.
The bar code technology which is used world-wide for product identification and incorporating lot of information about a product can be helpful in evolving a system that will help to trace the origin and history of a farm produce. The US is in the fore front in this important endeavor."The Produce Traceability Initiative aims to create a common standard for electronically tracing produce by the end of 2012. The plan involves adopting a standardized system of bar-coding for all produce sold in the United States, allowing products to be tracked throughout the distribution chain". In order for the farms growing the fresh produce to set up such systems, retailers will have to extend their support and a mutually beneficial alliance can make it a reality.
While bar code technology can help trace the original source of an agriculture produce, it can have some consequences on the present trading practices. With local produce movement gaining grounds, bar code will reveal the supply source giving an advantage to local producers. The way retailing industry works to day, sourcing its supplies from around the world, will also undergo dramatic changes as more and more local materials will have to be stocked and central procurement, processing and packing centers may also yield to more decentralized operations in the coming years. Products coming from developing countries also could be discriminated against, if the source is identifiable. Environmentalists would be delighted to see such bar code system operating as it will encourage consumption of products with less carbon prints.V.H.POTTY