By Melissa Lind, contributing writer
About two-thirds of total U.S. milk production comes from just 17 dairy processors. These processors are working with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to have solid traceability mechanisms in place by Sept 2014
The fresh foods sector of the food supply chain has concerned industry professionals the most when it comes to traceability. Fresh foods, such as dairy, have a larger proportion of food recall incidents and also present more challenges in traceability than boxed and packaged goods. Despite these problems, the dairy industry appears to be on its way to ensuring safety with voluntary compliance in tracking standards.
All 17 members have committed to best practices established by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which set the goal in Sept 2013, aiming to have coverage of 80 percent of the U.S. milk supply within the year. As the deadline approaches, the Innovation Center confirms that the industry is on schedule with the current 67 percent industry coverage. Traceability Subcommittee Chairman and Darigold SVP, Dermot Carey says, “We want the United States to be the global leader in dairy traceability.” Carey acknowledges the program is off to a good start, but hopes to get commitments from smaller processors as “We need commitments from processors of all sizes.”
Issues with only one dairy can affect the sector as a whole both outside and inside of the US. Establishing and employing traceability standards is important not only in terms of consumer confidence, but also in competitiveness for the U.S. producer in the global market. The Innovation Center considers implementation of traceability standards a priority, particularly as the fresh foods sector is a complex area in terms of tracking.
The best practices, published as Guidance for Dairy Product Enhanced Traceability, offer a 21 point checklist which is convenient, easy-to-use, and easy-to-implement. The Center expects that the standards can be implemented with “paper and pencil in just a few minutes a day.” The Center guidelines affect dairy processors but not on-farm producers and practices.