The Year Ahead: Advances in testing

Traceability has been in the spotlight, but there have also been advances in product testing to reduce costs and identify pathogens quickly.

SafeTraces in Pleasanton, CA, introduced two DNA-marking products in early 2018 made from a material extracted from seaweed.

One of these products is essentially an invisible, edible bar code on or in solid and liquid foods, allowing the exact origin of a food or beverage (not just the container) to be pinpointed in minutes. Customers range from apple marketers to palm oil producers.

Chief executive Anthony Zografos says a second SafeTraces product can detect and measure whether a processing facility is washed and sanitized properly, something that historically has taken days rather than minutes.

“In the sanitation space, the acceptance is very high, because there is no good alternative and they understand the risks,” Zografos says.

“Technology is evolving at an exponential pace,” says Walter Ram, vice president of food safety at Giumarra Bros Fruit Company, Los Angeles.

“We’re generating so much data and in so much detail, and we have detection methods that were science fiction a decade ago. Now we have to figure out how to fully understand and properly interpret the data.”

Michael Jantschke, director of food safety at Pro*Act, LLC, Monterey, CA, points out, however, that the ability to quickly identify a pathogen is only half the battle—and unfortunately, consumers assume finding the source will be just as fast.

“The time allowed to find the facts has really shrunk down to almost nothing,” he states. “But to track back, it’s basically 1980. It seems like the gap between detection and tracing to a common source is widening and has become an issue for the whole industry from a public relations standpoint.”

To cap an eventful 2018, Blueprints asked produce suppliers and other experts to look into their crystal balls and weigh in on the trends and issues that will be most prominent in 2019. Karen Raugust is a freelance writer who covers business topics ranging from retailing to the food industry.