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Leaders OF the United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) testified this week before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Agriculture as part of a hearing to address food traceability systems.
Noting that Congress continues to view food safety reform as a top policy priority this year, United Fresh president/CEO Tom Stenzel said, “With the hundreds of recalls related to the peanut paste outbreak the past several months, traceability of all foods and food ingredients is now at the center of this congressional debate. I’m pleased that Congress recognizes the produce industry’s strong voice in these deliberations, and we have a very good story to tell in produce traceability.”
In his testimony before the subcommittee, Stenzel highlighted current one-up/one-down traceability practices in the produce industry, and called on Congress to support industry efforts with the new Produce Traceability Initiative launched last year to drive streamlined whole-chain traceability based on common standards for case coding across the entire industry.
“As you weigh various traceability provisions of all the food safety bills under consideration by Congress, I ask you to look at the unique aspects of tracking bulk fresh produce,” Stenzel said. “We are likely to find that overly prescriptive mandates from the top down are not as likely to be effective as bottom-up efficiencies and systems designed for unique challenges. That’s what we believe we have achieved in the Produce Traceability Initiative. I ask the committee to support our efforts in this regard, and allow industry innovation similar to what I’ve shared here to flourish. We suggest that Congress should set the goal, not mandate the process.”
Providing testimony on behalf of GMA was Dr. Craig Henry, SVP/chief science & regulatory affairs officer, who said while Americans enjoy one of the safest food supplies in the world, “Food and beverage companies recognize that steps must be taken to make our food supply even safer. Ensuring the safety of our products -- and maintaining the confidence of consumers -- is the single most important goal of the food and beverage industry. Product safety is the foundation of consumer trust, and our industry devotes enormous resources to ensure that our products are safe.
Henry further said the industry “is prepared to work collaboratively with government to identify and address gaps in our current traceability system, including measures that will ensure that responsibility for traceability is shared throughout the supply chain, measures that will improve the interoperability of current and future traceability systems, and that which build upon and encourage industry innovation.”
GMA strongly supports House and Senate proposals to develop and test promising new traceability systems through pilot programs in the produce sector, noted Henry, adding that GMA remains “committed to working with Congress to enact food safety legislation that will continually improve the safety of America’s food supplies.”