ALBANY — State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the release of guidance from the Produce Traceability Blue Ribbon Task Force that will help to further strengthen New York’s produce supply system. Developed with input from Task Force members representing all sectors of the produce community, the document includes guidelines, and voluntary best management practices and protocols, to enhance produce traceability in our State. The document is designed to bolster our produce supply system, help New York consumers to more easily identify where their produce is grown and processed, and allow the State to trace the origin of a food product more quickly during a foodborne illness investigation.
Commissioner Ball said: “Food safety is everyone’s business, and I applaud the Produce Traceability Blue Ribbon Task Force for helping to make sure that traceability and food safety practices are key components of New York’s food businesses. The guidance released today will ensure our State remains a leader in food safety while providing assurance to New Yorkers that produce grown and sold here can easily be traced back to its source. This is key to supporting our entire produce supply chain, strengthening our food system, and reducing foodborne illness in our state.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said, “Food-borne pathogens can cause serious illness and notification of exposure to potentially contaminated foods will aid in preventing further illnesses. This best-practice resource is a welcome addition to New York’s food safety protocol.”
Members of the Produce Traceability Blue Ribbon Task Force met over several months to devise the voluntary best management practices document, which was designed to strengthen how the produce industry traces produce through the produce supply chain. The document can be used as a guide for a diverse array of food businesses, including those hoping to expand their current traceability efforts, those interested in beginning the implementation of an internal traceability system, and those that handle products listed on the proposed Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Food Traceability List. The goal of this collaborative effort was to provide useful information for businesses regardless of their size, while acknowledging that the implementation of any of the traceability steps listed in the document will bolster current traceability efforts within the produce industry in New York State. The guidance document can be found at https://agriculture.ny.gov/food-safety/guidance-produce-traceability.
The Produce Traceability Blue Ribbon Task Force builds on New York State’s leadership in food safety initiatives. The Department of Agriculture and Markets adopted parts of the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FMSA) in 2016 and has been working with the food supply chain to implement these proactive and preventative measures for the harvesting, manufacturing, and holding of all food types, including produce normally consumed raw.
In addition, in 2016, New York State launched the NYS Grown & Certified program, which is administered by the Department. The NYS Grown & Certified program certifies New York’s farmers for growing and producing food to a higher standard in the areas of food safety and environmental sustainability. The food safety requirements for participation in the NYS Grown & Certified program include third-party food safety audits, such as the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Safe Quality Food (SQF), British Retail Consortium (BRC) certification.
Dr. Betsy Bihn, Director of the Produce Safety Alliance and Executive Director of the Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University, said: “Implementing an effective traceability system is extremely challenging. It was wonderful to be part of this process that included all the Task Force members sharing their experiences, both good and bad, as well as identifying potential solutions to overcome identified traceability challenges. Because of the complexity of the produce market, the only way to truly get where we need to go is through cooperation.”
David Fisher, President of New York Farm Bureau, said: “The Produce Traceability Blue Ribbon Task Force gave productive feedback on a variety of current practices used for tracing produce from farm to market along with potential barriers associated with costs. The guidance ultimately provided one resource that demonstrates best practices for farms and businesses of all sizes. This end result will help to ensure that produce traceability continues to be an integral part of New York’s food supply system, improving food safety and instilling greater consumer confidence in local production. New York Farm Bureau thanks Commissioner Ball for the opportunity to participate on the Task Force.”
Steve Strub, Wegmans Food Markets Manager of Produce Food Safety, said: “This guidance is a great resource for the New York State Produce Industry to better understand and utilize traceability options and improve Food Safety and response times during critical food safety events.”
The Department, through its various divisions and programs, promotes New York agriculture and its high-quality and diverse products, fosters agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguards the State’s food supply, land and livestock to ensure the viability and growth of New York’s agriculture industries.
–NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets