“Field-packed is more challenging to be sure we’re 100% accurate,” Jewell said.
Beach Street Farms, Watsonville, uses coding that enables traceback to the field where a pallet was packed, said Stephanie Hilton, spokeswoman. The company is compliant with the Produce Traceability Initiative, she said.
Because strawberries are handpicked and packed in the field, the additional labor required by a traceability program can take significant time away from harvesting. Beach Street needs a process that demands little additional time.
“When you harvest the number of strawberries we harvest in a season, there are a lot of additional steps and technology that have to be implemented and additional costs,” Hilton said. “But we’re where we need to be at this point.”
Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc., Watsonville, introduced traceability to its berry clamshells in early 2009, and it has expanded it across the full product line since then.
In July, Driscoll’s began adding traceability to blueberries, the last of its four types of berries to be packed in traceable clamshells, said Douglas Ronan, vice president of marketing. He said Driscoll’s is working through implementation of the complex program.
“It has lots of elements, but it is consistent with our commitment to food safety,” Ronan said.
Bruce Turner, director of operations for Giumarra VBM International Berry LLC, Vernon, Calif., said all the company’s berries are traceable from clamshell and carton to the grower, field, block and pack date.
Doug Perkins, sales director for Hurst’s Berry Farm Inc., Sheridan, Ore.; and Brian Malensky, Oregon Berry Packing Co., Hillsboro, Ore., said their companies can trace each clamshell to the grower and to a particular field.