Written by Matthew Loss, Mark Katchen, Ilan Arvelo, Phil Arnold, Mona Shum
Written by Matthew Loss, Mark Katchen, Ilan Arvelo, Phil Arnold, Mona Shum
Written by Quin Chou, Nicole Herbold, and Lucia Cerrillo
Featured in the Genetic Literacy Project
Written by Richard Owen | January 21, 2021
Few technologies can transform the relationship between growers and consumers like the promise of transparency. And with Covid, many of us demand even greater assurance that our food supply chain is as safe as possible. How are growers, distributors, processors, and grocery stores implementing transparency at each point in the supply chain?
I have been working in the agriculture industry for a long time. Over 30 years to be exact. But it wasn’t until I entered the highly-perishable fresh produce sector a decade ago that I gathered a true appreciation for how complicated – and how powerful – a transparent supply chain can be.
For many deep-rooted and emotional reasons, consumers have a close relationship with their fresh produce, scanning the produce aisle high and low for just the right piece of fruit to take home. And if at a farmer’s market, they’ll often quiz the farmer on how the product was grown, what crop protection products were used, and when was it picked. Arguably, the consumer’s relationship with fruits and vegetables is the most complicated one in the supermarket.
Those are the old days. Or at least that is the past, and singular, view of how consumers connect with the most perishable of products in their shopping cart.
The promise of technology and its impact on transparency will forever change the produce aisle, just like moving from 3G to 5G technology.
When I speak to consumers about transparency, they reflect with varied responses. Some will say they want to get to know the specific grower that produced the beans or apples. What type of land was the crop raised on? What chemicals were sprayed, if any? What similar products can I purchase from that particular farmer?
When I speak with growers, transparency means building deeper loyalty with retailers and the consumers they serve (with hopes the loyalty is returned). But equally important, it’s a way to keep track of the product in case of food safety inquiries and also ensuring the quality of food arriving at its final destination — a nudge for growers to improve transparency.
Like with most technologies, there must be a benefit for increased transparency to become more ubiquitous. The most tangible benefit is financial, of course. That could come in the form of cost savings by eliminating a portion of the supply chain, or through increased margin at the checkout stand demanded by a premium label.
At the same time, it could also be an opportunity to protect market share. We’ve all seen the many recalls for romaine lettuce. We’re told of a few brands and bar codes to be aware of, but how do they know? The ability to trace-back a product to a particular warehouse or field is very important for a retailer and the consumer.
In the case of a food safety incident, quick trace-back can mean the difference between a small recall involving one or two growers, or a larger investigation that involves tens of millions of dollars of impacted product. And, if consumers fall ill from the incident, a bruised reputation for the retailer or brand, regardless of the outcome.
According to a 2020 study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Label Insight, shoppers have higher expectations for transparency when shopping online compared to in-store. Think back to the early days of COVID-19. According to FMI, online grocery purchases soared to 27% of all grocery spending for the March/April period of this year, compared to 14% in February.
This increase in online sales will undoubtedly drive consumers’ interest in a more transparent system. Why? In the store, you can look and feel the product you are about to purchase. Online, you need something more to tell the complete story of a product – how it was grown, when it was picked, size, and other quality attributes. That’s where transparency fills the gaps.
When you go to a grocery store, what do you want to know about your fruits and veggies? Why would you pick a particular brand of berries over another? Or what is it that you like about a particular store’s produce section? We often look for certain benefits when we purchase a product. It starts with the basics of getting a good product at a fair price. But beyond that, transparency helps the consumer make a purchase.
According to IRI Research, “consumers are more concerned than ever about where their food comes from. They are not only making their concerns widely known on social media; they are editing their shopping lists based on those concerns”. Not a surprise to see that the food transparency trend is growing, especially in the younger generations.
The effect of transparency on purchase decisions is even starker among the Millennial generation. According to a Snacking Trends Report, this demographic is increasingly making purchasing decisions based on “the tenets of self, society, and planet”, which feeds into sustainability.
Farmer acceptance of transparency technology is growing for multiple reasons. In the case of fresh produce, transparency allows the grower to look for efficiencies in the supply chain. Not only with their operation, but in the part of the chain above and below them.
Through an open purchasing platform, a grower may learn what the distributor pays the manufacturer for inputs, which puts them in a better negotiating position with the distributor, or even directly with the manufacturer.
Going the other direction in the supply chain, a grower may be able to directly access consumer insights on their products and brand. In the past, that information may have been maintained by retailers or distributors that, in turn, passed it along to the grower. The net result of this shift is quicker and better-informed decisions about what to grow.
And more importantly, they can look for particular attributes to provide the highest return from the marketplace. Similar to the consumer, it often comes down to economics: can I increase my revenue or lower my costs through the use of new technology that pulls up the shades somewhere else in the supply chain?
New technology has a way of telling the story of ‘what’s possible’. Here are two promising examples:
Founded in 2013, a Californian company called SafeTraces developed DNA “barcodes” that can be added to fruits and vegetables via a liquid spray or wax. What’s so special about that? The company takes a small piece of synthetic DNA from organisms not typically found in the produce section – like seaweed – which they mix with trace amounts of sugar and create a sprayable solution. According to the company, the spray is odorless, tasteless, and poses no food safety risk.
If a problem with the product arises, the DNA on the surface can be swabbed and identified within minutes. Placing the DNA barcode directly on fresh produce significantly reduces the potential for traceback information to be lost. Produce boxes, which traditionally carry the tracking information, are discarded long before anyone catches on to a problem.
In a different twist on innovative traceability technology, software company HarvestMark partnered with iFood Decision Sciences to create a solution that allows consumers to not only view each step along the supply chain, but to provide feedback and reward those brands they feel are doing the best job of transparency.
The product information is collected and shared with the consumer on an item-level basis. The consumer has instant feedback linked to the product’s age, origin, and location. This allows the grower to see how a specific product performs on the grocery store shelf and then make short and long-term production decisions.
In addition to the quality and analytical measurements provided to the grower, like temperature control, inventory monitoring, and supplier notifications, this traceability system also provides a mechanism for product recall in case there is a food safety incident.
The real power of the HarvestMark technology comes through the integration of both the consumer and analytical supply-chain feedback. A highly perishable raspberry variety, for example, might have great flavor and visual appeal according to consumer feedback. Through the analytics of the traceability software across the supply chain, the grower can maximize the shelf-life of the raspberries and reduce perishability at the store level. The result is increased income for both the grower and the retailer…and a happy customer who returns for repeat business.
The promise of this technology will be optimized even further using blockchain applications, which enables the industry to share data up and down the supply chain while maintaining the integrity of the data at each source.
A demand for transparency stems from both the consumer and the farmer in the hopes of ensuring affordability, safety, and sustainability. Implementing these advances will radically change supply chains in the years ahead. And although consumers may only notice slight differences in the produce section, we’ll reap its benefits by paying less for safer food that’s less likely to end up in the garbage.
Richard Owen has been a part of the Produce Marketing Association since 2009, when he joined as Director of Global Business Development and has served as Vice President of Global Membership and Engagement for the past three years. Find Richard on Twitter @richardo_pma
In this episode, COO Ulrike Hodges welcomes Melanie Nuce, the Senior Vice President of Corporate Development at GS1 US, an organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication, and a collaborator to SafeTraces. Melanie leads a team that investigates new technologies, partnerships, and business opportunities to increase the relevance and reach of GS1 Standards worldwide. Ulrike and Melanie discuss persistent track and trace issues within the supply chain, in particular GS1’s experience leveraging emerging technologies to drive business process efficiencies and innovation.
Written by Krista Earl of TagOne | December 7, 2020
Ingredient traceability. Once merely a concern for select consumers and extraordinarily transparent brands, has become a more frequent concern of consumers and has been highlighted in the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” initiative. The FDA, retailers and consumers are increasingly invested in the safety, efficacy and quality of the ingredients and their source that are the foundation of what we are putting in our bodies. This foundation is built on one of the key components in “The New Era of Smarter Food”: Tech Traceability. Tech traceability will combine a culture, best practices and technology to enable your organization to know, at a minimum, who provided your ingredients, and who purchased your ingredients. Sounds simple, right? Well, it depends. Let’s look further at the steps which will help you effectively manage your supply chain.
It Starts with Culture
Implementing a company culture that is focused on quality is critical to ensure that you have a safe, detailed process that keeps your consumers safe. The problem, however, is that many companies are not living up to these standards, and do not have the proper process in place to capture and analyze critical data and documents throughout their supply chain. As recently as August 2020, a salmonella outbreak in onions caused 167 hospitalizations nationally. A study by Countless investigations around the globe have uncovered mislabeled ingredients and unsafe handling of consumable food products. A study by the Journal of American Medicine identified that less than 50% of CBD products had accurate labeling. The result? Consumers aren’t trusting food and supplement companies anymore. Additionally, this drives up legal fees and insurance premiums.
So, what can you do to protect yourself now?
Taking it to the Next Level
Building a great brand starts with building a great product. Yes, we can drive sales and have nice packaging, but your product is a compilation of all the ingredients and critical events in your supply chain. The companies that master quality and their supply chain and know where all their ingredients came from, will win by developing a reputation of excellence leading to trust from consumers and retailers.
– Krista Earl, Marketing Coordinator at TagOne.
Featured in TagOne’s BlogOne!
Written by Ulrike Hodges, COO of SafeTraces | December 4, 2020
With increasing urgency, consumers and regulators are demanding transparency and assurances from companies, manufacturers, and distributors regarding their safety practices and the authenticity of their products. To illustrate the magnitude of the issue, the U.S spends an average of $152 billion annually on foodborne illness related costs and an average of $10 million a year per food recall. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration responded by ushering in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, highlighting critical shortcomings of the current system in rapidly tracking and tracing food: records being largely paper-based; lack of end-to-end product traceability; and limitations in data sufficiency, compatibility, and quality for identifying products along the supply chain. These shortcomings can result in loss of life, millions of dollars in avoidable product loss, and lasting damage to consumer trust.
There is a persistent gap between the physical product being tracked and traced, and paper and digital records in the supply chain, providing the opportunity for bad actors in the supply chain to manipulate paper-based records, product labeling and packaging, and to profit from the misrepresentation of products. Product integrity can also be compromised through unintentional adulteration of records and products, due to human error resulting from an overly manual, inefficient recordkeeping process.
The good news is that blockchain and other existing supply chain solutions and digital technologies have made significant advances toward enhancing traceability and ultimately product integrity and consumer safety. Yet, the question remains on how to link a product’s digital record directly to the product.
A groundbreaking technology that leverages the power of DNA addresses the gap between the physical product, packaging, and digital-based records. SafeTraces, an innovative technology company in Pleasanton, CA has patented and deployed the miniDART® solution in the food industry and pharmaceutical industry, where it integrates seamlessly into existing production and processing steps, such as bulk commodity transfer points at the farm-level, produce wax lines or automated bag-filling lines.
SafeTraces’ revolutionary process of DNA tagging combines short, non-coding, non-living DNA sequences into edible, invisible, FDA-Generally Recognized as Safe (FDA-GRAS), DNA tags that leverage GS1 standards. The flavorless DNA tags, called safeTracers®, are applied directly to food, an API, excipient, or finished dose, in parts per billion (ppb) or less. By adding safeTracers directly to a product, the miniDART provides an immutable, covert, physical link between the product and digital traceability solutions. Using a simple test kit, downstream partners can read lot-level information directly off the product in 25 minutes, thereby rapidly accelerating the time it takes to authenticate a product even after its packaging has been removed.
When compared to conventional traceability solutions, SafeTraces’ solution delivers superior performance, ease of use, and scalability. It enables manufacturers and downstream partners to empirically support farm-to-fork claims, strengthen transparency and sustainability stories with consumers, and mitigate cost and risk associated with recalls and adulteration.
– Ulrike Hodges, COO of SafeTraces
Ulrike Hodges is the COO of SafeTraces, a Bay Area-based technology company and leader in DNA-enabled solutions for safety, traceability, and environmental quality. By harnessing the power of DNA, SafeTraces’ solutions meet the increasing demands of customers in the built environment, pharmaceutical, and food industries. Visit safetraces.com or contact a representative at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Written by Thomas Skernivitz | October 1, 2020
Food traceability companies will remember the summer of 2020 for more than the coronavirus and lockdowns.
On July 13, the FDA announced its new approach to food safety, the goal of which is to bend the curve of foodborne illness in the U.S. by reducing the number of illnesses. The organization had planned to announce the initiative in March but was forced to turn its attention to addressing the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New Era of Smarter Food Safety leverages technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. The blueprint seeks out simpler, more effective, and modern approaches and processes.
Tasked with educating growers on the FDA program and its significance are food traceability companies such as iFoodDecisionSciences (iFoodDS), rfxcel, and SafeTraces.
“Produce growers, packers, and shippers need to meet and exceed the performance of conventional packaging and requirements of the initiative,” Ulrike Hodges, the COO of SafeTraces, says. “As consumers and regulators demand higher food safety standards and visibility into supply chain practices, on-product traceability can provide them and their customers much needed assurance of the safety and authenticity of food products.”
The FDA is focusing on four core elements that it believes could significantly reduce foodborne illness in the country: tech-enabled traceability; smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response; new business models and retail modernization; and food safety culture.
“Industry- and regulator-led efforts and standardization will set the rules of the road for the key data elements (KDEs) and critical tracking events (CTEs) that must be captured,” John McPherson, Director of Global Solutions with rfxcel, says. “For the growers/harvesters, we think that data-capture innovations will allow field-level/harvest data to be leveraged for traceability, data analytics, and many other business uses. Growers who adopt digital strategies today will be not just ahead — they will be the ones that survive. “There will be a new era of food safety.”
Every shipper’s traceability data should be in the cloud, according to iFoodDS Vice President Minos Athanassiadis.
“The PTI (Produce Traceability Initiative) standard of ‘one up one back’ traceability is too slow to respond to future outbreaks because the fresh fruit supply chain is complex, and the traceability data is locked up in data silos within each organization across the supply chain,” Athanassiadis says.
Hodges concurs: “The lack of complete, rapid, and accurate traceability systems significantly impedes the speediness and effectiveness of traceback investigations during outbreaks and recalls. They also fail to effectively support global sustainability initiatives and prevent food fraud, undermining the public’s faith in global and even domestic food supply chains and creating financial harm to growers and manufacturers.”
Growers should realize that digital supply chains and the benefits they offer are within their reach, McPherson says. New innovations in product labeling, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, radio frequency identification (RFID), and Bluetooth are being built to scale at the levels that growers work in. “Such innovations mean that the cost and implementation are easier to see as an investment, not as an expense,” McPherson says.
iFoodDS is working with packer/shippers to not just be PTI case-labeling compliant but also be PTI compliant in tracking their pallet shipments with Serial Shipping Container Code (SSCC) pallet tags and submitting advance ship notices (ASNs) to their customers for instantaneous trace forward.
“We are also encouraging the grocery retailers to make the most of our industry’s investments in PTI traceability by tracking cases at the DC (distribution center) and on to the store level,” Athanassiadis says.
Growers continue to make strides in digitizing their supply chains, McPherson says, but they need to continue evolving their operations to meet new demands of the marketplace. This includes complying with the PTI as well as potential new requirements from the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
“The FDA has been candid about wanting supply chains to be more digital and transparent, and growers will need to consider breaking down supply chain data from current silos and having a unified approach to that data,” McPherson says.
Adds Hodges: “Without incorporating end-to-end traceability back to the source in the produce industry, produce growers, packers, and shippers fail to meet consumers’ needs for food transparency, legal requirements, and potentially increase their risk in the event of an outbreak or recall.”
iFoodDS (Kenmore, WA) — The company on May 6 acquired Trimble’s food traceability and quality inspection business, HarvestMark. “We now provide growers and shippers with comprehensive real-time food safety records along with the state-of-the-art traceability,” Athanassiadis says. “This means that, for the first time, we’re linking real-time food safety information, not annual or quarterly audits, with every case of fruit going out the door, to be able to instantaneously access and respond to food safety and trace requests.”
rfxcel (Reno, NV) — The company boasts products that growers can use to digitize — from mobile and web to sensor/IoT tech — all run from the cloud, McPherson says. “We have deep experience creating a single-source of truth for every item in a supply chain, then sharing that data with trading partners to be compliant with current and future needs, such as blockchain integration,” he says. “Our experience working with federal regulatory bodies is another big advantage we bring to our customers.”
SafeTraces (Pleasanton, CA) — The company’s miniDART technology speaks to the problem of packaging that bears conventional barcodes and other digital identifiers being removed or damaged during normal supply chain transactions. The product uses unique edible, invisible DNA-based tags (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the fruit during normal processing and can be read by a downstream purchaser with a rapid, inexpensive, onsite test to verify product source and authenticity in 25 minutes.
Corvium and SafeTraces Partner to Automate Management of Sanitation Verification Diagnostic Testing for Food Supplier Organizations
Date: June 29, 2020
RESTON, VA. (PRWEB)
Corvium Inc., the leader in automation of food risk intelligence, announced today that it is partnering with SafeTraces, Inc. leaders in next-generation DNA-based technology solutions. The partnership will enable food suppliers and processors to schedule, manage and deliver diagnostic testing and results from SafeTraces groundbreaking rapid sanitation verification solution, saniDART™, through CONTROL-PRO™– Corvium’s automated environmental monitoring platform.
Available today, SafeTraces customers can seamlessly integrate their current EMP process into Corvium’s award-winning solution that is used by more than 100 food supplier operations in North America. The integration will allow customers to schedule, manage and analyze results collected with the saniDART solution — the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level to receive certification from the AOAC Research Institute (AOAC-RI). Corvium’s CONTROL-PRO manages the entire process, from scheduling and mapping test locations, to automatically collecting results and presenting sanitation verification results within a single web-based platform that can be accessed through any browser-enabled device.
“The key to enabling a new era of smarter food safety is technology” says Erik Malmstrom, SafeTraces CEO. “SafeTraces has responded to the food industry’s need for better, faster, and more cost-effective solutions for sanitation verification and traceability by harnessing the power of DNA technology. Similarly, Corvium has delivered best-in-class software and data technology for environmental monitoring. Our two platforms together provide tremendous value to customers and make the new era of smarter food safety a reality.”
“The food safety, quality and sanitation functions within the food and beverage industry are experiencing a digital transformation”, states David Hatch, Corvium’s Chief Growth & Partnership Officer. “Organizations are seeking to integrate and consolidate the technologies and devices that help streamline their environmental testing processes. The partnership with SafeTraces meets this need with the integration of SafeTraces saniDART™, the most innovative sanitation verification solution available today, to Corvium’s food risk intelligence platform, and the CONTROL-PRO EMP workflow and analytics application. This provides customers with one system on which all of their EMP, Product Testing and Sanitation workflows can be managed, visualized and analyzed.”
About Corvium Inc.
Corvium’s mission is to use data to make the world a safer place to eat. Our food risk intelligence platform continuously aggregates and analyzes risk and quality data generated during food production and distribution. Corvium’s fully integrated solution is used by food safety professionals and executives to streamline and optimize product testing, environmental sampling, and sanitation workflows. Our workflow and analytics technology helps food producers and processors prevent pathogenic contamination, comply with federal regulations and internal safety and quality programs, while reducing food safety risks and food waste. To learn more about corvium, visit their website: https://corvium.com.
About SafeTraces, Inc.
Founded in 2013, SafeTraces is a mission-driven team of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and food safety practitioners dedicated to using nature’s DNA to make food production safer, more transparent, and more sustainable. Our rapid, easy-to-use, and cost-effective testing solutions for sanitation verification and traceability build on groundbreaking and patented DNA-based technology. We developed the first and only on-food traceability solution, the miniDART, which leverages natural, edible, invisible, DNA-based barcodes (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the product and that downstream purchasers can read with a rapid, inexpensive test in order to verify product source, authenticity, and purity in minutes. Additionally, we developed the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level, the saniDART, that uses FDA-GRAS, AOAC-certified abiotic bacterial surrogates in order to enable in-process corrective actions, evaluate sanitation crew accuracy and proficiency, and support environmental monitoring, continuous improvement, root cause analysis, in-house validation, and FSMA and SQF audits. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.safetraces.com
saniDART™ Receives AOAC Approval
Date: April 2, 2020
PLEASANTON, Calif., April 2, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — SafeTraces, Inc. announced today that it has received approval from the AOAC Research Institute (AOAC-RI) for its groundbreaking rapid sanitation verification solution, saniDART™.
SafeTraces’ saniDART™ is the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level to receive AOAC certification. saniDART addresses major shortcomings of two commonly used methods for verifying sanitation effectiveness in food production, the Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) test and the Aerobic Plate Count (APC) test. The ATP test measures the effectiveness of the sanitation processes in removing organic matter but is not a reliable indicator of bacterial inactivation. Meanwhile, the APC test is a reliable indicator for bacterial inactivation, however the 48-hour wait period for results precludes making in-process corrective actions. saniDART is a powerful tool for monitoring bacterial inactivation with APC-like test quality and results available at a speed closer to that of ATP tests.
“Now more than ever, consumers and regulators are demanding high standards and visibility into food safety practices throughout the supply chain,” said Erik Malmstrom, SafeTraces Chief Executive Officer. “There is a significant unmet need in the food industry for a better, faster, and cheaper solution for sanitation verification at a microbial level. SafeTraces responded and innovated, which is what we do best. Receiving AOAC validation, the gold standard for proprietary testing methods in food safety, is a major milestone for saniDART™. We look forward to delivering this groundbreaking solution to the food industry in a big way.”
Results in the AOAC validation report (Performance Tested Method #032001) provided evidence that saniDART is effective at detecting the presence of saniTracers™, proprietary abiotic bacterial surrogates and a key component of saniDART, on stainless steel surfaces representative in food processing and manufacturing facilities. saniTracers are manufactured by encapsulating short, non-coding DNA sequences within food-grade material particles and are applied on food contact surfaces in processing facilities, including Zone 1. saniTracers are degraded and removed in a similar manner as microbes during cleaning and chlorine-based sanitizing. saniTracers levels can be quantified by a simple swabbing and on-site qPCR test that provides results in 25 minutes. By measuring saniTracers levels before and after sanitation, saniDART provides powerful, actionable information in a pass/caution/fail format for verifying sanitation effectiveness.
The saniDART rapid sanitation verification solution includes saniTracers consumables, test kits, an off-the shelf qPCR reader, and a tablet with a cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) feature to identify sampling points in food processing facilities. saniDART is supported by market-leading environmental monitoring software to manage floor plans, scheduling, corrective actions, reporting, and analytics.
AOAC International (formerly the Association of Analytical Chemists) is an independent, third-party, not-for-profit organization that develops standards on measuring and determining the safety and integrity of food and other products worldwide. An AOAC-Research Institute (AOAC-RI) validation means that the manufacturer’s claims have been verified by a trusted third-party laboratory.
Founded in 2013, SafeTraces is a mission-driven team of entrepreneurs, scientists, engineers, and food safety practitioners dedicated to using nature’s DNA to make food production safer, more transparent, and more sustainable. Our rapid, easy-to-use, and cost-effective testing solutions for sanitation verification and traceability build on groundbreaking and patented DNA-based technology. We developed the first and only on-food traceability solution, the miniDART, which leverages natural, edible, invisible, DNA-based barcodes (FDA-GRAS) that are applied directly to the product and that downstream purchasers can read with a rapid, inexpensive test in order to verify product source, authenticity, and purity in minutes. Additionally, we developed the first rapid solution for verifying sanitation effectiveness at a microbial level, the saniDART, that uses FDA-GRAS, AOAC-certified abiotic bacterial surrogates in order to enable in-process corrective actions, evaluate sanitation crew accuracy and proficiency, and support environmental monitoring, continuous improvement, root cause analysis, in-house validation, and FSMA and SQF audits. To learn more, contact us at https://www.safetraces.com/product-inquiry.
SOURCE SafeTraces, Inc.