Since 1997, General has stickered every box it distributes with lot numbers for traceability. The system allows for traceback to Price Look-Up number, which traces back to the shipper/ vendor, Scott said.
“That can be a great selling tool,” Scott said. “It helps us with any returns or other issues. It also keeps everyone honest so a customer can’t send something back to us with a different number on it.”
Sutherland’s Foodservice Inc., Atlanta, undergoes quarterly audits and has a traceability program in place.
“Our customers bring it up when they’re concerned, but they already know we have this in place,” said Diana Earwood, vice president. “You have to keep on top of it always. We have information coming through the Produce Marketing Association and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. There is a lot more that you’re doing on an almost minute-by-minute update to see what’s going on. It does add some additional work.”
Howard Mundt, president of Harvest Brokerage, Atlanta, said its customers know who they’re buying from.
He said the company buys from shippers with major labels. Those shippers, Mundt said, have all the proper food safety certifications for cleanliness in their packing and distribution.
“The bad part about it (outbreaks) is that they try to blame the produce before they look elsewhere,” he said. “In several of those incidents, it wasn’t the supplier but was the people that got it. Someone hadn’t washed their hands and then touched produce.”