Ripped from the Headlines:
USDA Issues Listeria Warning
BY CBSNEWS.COM STAFF CBSNEWS.COM STAFF
MAY 25, 1999 / 6:23 PM / CBS
There are several practical reasons for being able to determine, precisely, food products origins: Finding the source of product responsible for a listeria outbreak, for one; Providing verification for products ‘guaranteeing’ to be from a specific area is another.
A commercial product described and explained in a recent in-depth FoodDive report has both those issues in mind. It seems to be living up to its promises, too.
FoodDive noted that a 2011 listeria outbreak involving cantaloupe killed 33 people and sickened 137 others. Had SafeTraces’ tools been available and in place then, the results could have been quite different, because authorities would have been able to quickly pull candidate cantaloupes from stores where problem ones were purchased, and track them back to the fields they were grown in – thus finding, or at least being way closer to finding, the source of the offending bacteria.
Alas, that listeria outbreak was, ultimately the source of the solution to the ‘source identification’ issue.
Anthony Zografos, who as chief operating officer of CPAC, (company Compact Particle Acceleration Corporation), previously helped develop a cancer therapy system, saw in that listeria situation a need to understand how to pinpoint the source of product contamination – particularly the type that causes listeriosis. He wanted to solve that problem.
He told FoodDive that while most traceability applications on the market do a good job of keeping track of food packaging, he wanted to find a way to trace further back in the system, to where the product – cantaloupe, in this case – originated. With that aim (and some sound ideas how to proceed), in mind, he founded SafeTraces, a company dedicated to enabling DNA-level tracking of food products.
In short, this now-a-few-years-old company, under its mechanical engineering PhD leader (Zografos), developed a sort-of bar code – comprised of a seaweed extract – that is applied to foods as they are processed (washed and sorted, in the case of cantaloupes). The embedded code can tell anyone who needs to know anything and everything about its provenance – where it came from – and more.
Last week, the company announced a deal with safety science giant UL to enhance palm oil traceability. This partnership gives businesses dealing with palm oil — a common food ingredient that has a reputation for being farmed using substandard sustainability and human rights practices — a potentially easy solution to guarantee the ingredient’s source.
Last month, SafeTraces announced a partnership with JBT FoodTech, a leading producer of food processing and packaging equipment. This partnership has not yet been fully defined, SafeTraces Vice President of Business Development Ulrike Hodges told Food Dive, but the companies are looking for a way to pursue food processing while integrating SafeTraces technology.
Links in the article will lead you to more details, if you’re interested.