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October, 18th 2011

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SE 10-14-2011by Steve Eiseler, Vice President of Cherry Central

We are witnessing never-ending headlines on outbreaks of food-borne illnesses more than ever before.

Earlier this month, a listeria-strained cantaloupe weakened the immune system of an 87-year-old woman facing severe complications, ultimately leading to her death two weeks later.

Just last week Commercial Meat Co. in Los Angeles recalled 377,775 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E.coli.

A few days later Giant Eagle Inc. in Pittsburgh recalled packaged iceberg lettuce because of the potential threat of listeria contamination.

With more than six billion cases of fruits and vegetables transported around the United States each year, there are many points throughout the supply chain at which food may be exposed to possible contamination. In fact, outbreaks of illnesses traced to food carry an annual price tag of $152 billion in our country alone.

The increasing number of food-borne illness outbreaks, standardization of regulations for food safety and the consumer demand for quality food is creating a burgeoning demand for technologies to ensure the food we eat is safe.  In fact, the global food safety testing market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 10.46 percent to $2.5 billion in 2015.

So what’s really safe to eat?   It sure gives you food for thought.

At Cherry Central, we’re doing something about ensuring food safety.  We are collaborating with IBM using analytics technology to track food items as they travel from the farm to supermarket shelves.  If you bring me a jar of applesauce that was produced here, I can tell you which orchard the apples were grown in, what processing plant was used, when it was processed, what temperature it was kept at and when it was delivered to the consumer.

Our workers use mobile devices to record where food is stored and when it’s moved, making communications reliable and instantaneous to notify customers on shipments and arm a small number of individuals to do a lot of complex tasks in the event of a recall.

Many food suppliers in the industry still use paper checklists and questionnaires to perform audits and inspections on their fruits and vegetables and processing/packing systems . When these forms are finally returned to the office, employees manually enter the information into computer databases.  This manual data collection not only generates tons of paperwork and man hours, but exposes the system to human error and the loss of information. Finding a source of possible contamination can take much more time and could cost lives.

We wouldn’t have thought 10 years ago we could create digital records for food safety, now records are almost 100 percent digital. This records digitization is a huge advancement for the food safety community.  Today, anyone in our company can look at the information we collect and be sure we’re delivering safe products.

When my family sits down at the dinner table, I want them to be sure what they’re about to eat is safe.  Wouldn’t you want to feel the same?

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