From November 2021 through January 2022, the CDC opened two investigations concerning the foodborne illness Listeria, that contaminated leafy green produce manufactured by large scale growers (FDA) [r20.rs6.net]. Packages of salads, leafy greens, and lettuces have been linked to the spread of Listeria across the U.S. for the past seven years, infecting 17 patients and killing two people. This kind of foodborne illness is a serious threat to producers and suppliers of produce. In an effort to prevent such foodborne illnesses from spreading, the FDA implemented the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) back in January of 2011 and has recently proposed more robust food traceability protocols for the year 2022. These new requirements will apply to all areas of traceability that grow, produce, process, and package such produce.
In order to provide better traceability for produce, the FDA expects records to be maintained with Key Data Elements (KDEs) like account numbers, location of production, batch numbers, etc. In an effort to maintain visibility, the FDA also requires that KDEs are tracked with Critical Tracking Events (CDEs) through the supply chain (shipment numbers, receipts, lots, etc.). The hope is that these protocols will provide a record of the produce’s lifespan, creating evidence and a clear report of each step of contamination. Providing such information is crucial in the prevention of foodborne illness. These data trackers allow for the CDC to track down produce more efficiently in cases of contamination.