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Growers in Mexico are used to the concept of sharing their audits with their customers and potential customers in the US to get their product accepted for export. Unfortunately, that sharing is not usually reciprocated. Oftentimes, growers do not have access to the information about the food safety practices of the distributors, shippers, or packinghouses that buy from them, despite the fact that those practices can potentially have significant impact upon the grower’s brand.
Growers do a lot of work to jump through the hoops involved in exporting their products to the US and in complying with the regulations of the FDA and their customers’ requirements, etc. If their product isn’t handled correctly and contamination occurs during the packing, cooling, or distribution processes, the FDA usually ends up pointing fingers at the source of the product: the grower.
In the process, growers have their brand names and reputations damaged, and the harm may extend to entire commodity groups and even the countries they represent. For instance, an outbreak may be summarized with a generic statement from the FDA indicating that the outbreak has occurred in a commodity from Mexico, which may name a specific region of the country. The American consumer, not being familiar with specific regions of Mexico, may just avoid the commodity group entirely and might even avoid other products from Mexico.
While the word “epidemiology” is long and intimidating, the tools that epidemiologists use are fairly down-to-earth. Sometimes, the process of identifying the source of a food-borne outbreak is not terribly glamorous or complicated.
An effective investigation into a food-borne disease is aided by a few events, some that scientists have control over, and others they do not. In the past, an outbreak caused by a common strain of, say, Salmonella was difficult to separate from other variables that had nothing to do with the outbreak. The sophistication of whole genome sequencing (WGS) has changed that, but the effectiveness of WGS is still dependent upon other factors: most importantly, the epidemiological survey.
With modern food safety testing, rare pathogens or strains of pathogens enable epidemiologists to focus their surveys on victims who are actually linked by a common source or vector, namely a type of food. So, despite all of our modern testing methods and interconnected databases, the field of epidemiology is still very much dependent on compiling results from surveys: interviews with sick people.
If those interviews are done on individuals with poor or failing memories, all of the wonders of modern science may be for naught. Failing memories, common diseases, run-of-the-mill strains do not lend themselves to identifying clear-cut sources of outbreaks. While it is true that the development of rapid and specific pathogen testing enables surveyors to get to those with failing memories sooner, and while these analytical developments have been critical to linking specific perishable commodities to outbreaks, still, finding the pathogens on the actual product is far more difficult, which makes identifying the “smoking gun” extremely challenging.
With this in mind, as a grower, you have to protect your brand, and there is no better way to protect your brand than by being well informed about the food safety practices of the customers to whom you are selling your products.
Azzule can provide visibility and transparency up and down the entire supply chain. With the proper releases in place, you can request that your customers provide you with their facility audits or laboratory testing results. You can learn their Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and details about their organization’s food safety culture, so you know whether they’ll be good business partners with whom to work. Selling to a customer that can provide you with the confidence that your brand will be protected is key to choosing the right organizations with which to partner.
No need to go elsewhere. PrimusLabs and Azzule have partnered to bring together your laboratory testing, audit data, and much more, all the services you need in one place. The future of food safety is now. Follow this link to start your journey today! Click HERE
About the Author: Nadia Pasco
“Who is Handling My Produce? Part 1 & 2”
Nadia Pasco is the Chief Executive Officer of Azzule Systems, a position she has held since 2008 when the company was founded. Nadia is a strong leader with an unparalleled passion for the industries that Azzule serves. She is a hands-on leader, involved with the day-to-day business concerns of clients and an understanding their specialized needs. Under Nadia’s leadership, Azzule’s approach blends a passionate and entrepreneurial spirit with practical and innovative solutions to help clients be successful.