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Are Food Tracking Mandates Too Costly?

barcode-copy-150x150The Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act, introduced in February of 2009, requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a traceability system for all stages of manufacturing, processing, packaging and distribution of food products. This system will track the history, use, and location of any food product shipped in interstate commerce.

Ideally, the proposed tracking system would make it easier for producers and distributors to cease distribution of contaminated or adulterated food and enable rapid recalls. However, the vague language of the bill raises some concerns.

How will this bill affect farmers who sell produce at farm stands? Would having to provide proof of adherence to standards be too costly for small farms and drive them out of business? And once food producers implement these standards and systems, will the consumer end up paying too much for a trip to the grocery store?

For the larger food producers, will government mandated systems create inefficiencies if traceability systems are already in place, or force firms to make adjustments to already efficient systems?

So far the bill sits in committee. Now, no one would argue that being able to trace food products from the farm to the dinner table is a bad thing. But this bill, and the related Food Safety Modernization Act, may negatively impact smaller farms and ultimately result in higher prices for the consumer.

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  1. Of course, you could look at it the other way and ask if food producers can afford NOT to meet the new mandates.

    There are some good, simple, low cost ways to get into compliance (and improve one's business processes at the same time) which I'll be writing about in a while.

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