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United Fresh decided to undertake the pilot partly as a response to the yersinia outbreak last year, and to look at what traceability challenges were likely to hit the fresh produce industry in the future.
Hans Maurer, United Fresh’s knowledge officer, said it was decided to take the approach of walking before running so strawberries were picked for the pilot, although he emphasised the findings could relate to any fresh vegetable or fruit.
Strawberry NZ’S executive manager Mick Ahern said the strawberry industry, represented by Strawberry Growers New Zealand Inc, volunteered to the support initiative as an act of “good citizenship” within the New Zealand domestic horticulture business.
“SGNZ is a member of United Fresh and an affiliated product group under Hort NZ. It is also an emerging industry body that wanted to be at the forefront of assisting the Ministry for Primary Industries evaluate New Zealand food safety processes in general. We also wished to demonstrate to customers that we are proactive in this space. We think it has been a good exercise and will be keen to follow up on the findings alongside other horticulture product groups” Mick said. The strawberries sector took a proactive approach and, past traceability records were available. In addition the fruit is predominantly sold packed, and presents fewer traceability challenges than product sold loose.
The objective of the pilot study was to gain a snap shot of the domestic market “external” traceability systems. In other words, can a product be tracked effectively from retail shelf backwards to the grower in a timely manner?
Most organizations have effective “internal” traceability systems. The challenge is whether each part of the supply chain traceability works well together.
The draft report is soon to be completed, pilot participants will be consulted with in the new year and a final report given to Strawberries New Zealand and the United Fresh board in February or March. It was carried out with the assistance of
____________________________________________________________ Early results from a traceability pilot study has shown some areas for improvement along the chain from picking to purchase by the consumer.
Foodstuffs, Progressive Enterprises, M G Marketing GS1 New Zealand and T&G.
“We looked at formal supply chains, not farmers’ markets or white vans on the side of the road without writing,” he said.
The aim was to trace strawberry punnets labelled on-farm from the grower to a wholesaler (or not) then on to supermarkets.
Mr Maurer said consumers wanted to have confidence that food was safe to eat and good food safety ensured that. Retailers and wholesalers, if they were involved, had traceability challenges as they needed to know the sale was recorded correctly, the label was meeting any regulatory requirements and the product conformed to their standards. They also needed to know it was possible to get back to the grower of the crop if necessary.
Practices in the industry and systems are generally pretty good but ensuring effective traceabilty throughout the supply chain will need industry co-operation.