As the world struggles to manage the recent outbreak of coronavirus, last year’s E. coli outbreak has been coming to mind. While on a completely different scale and magnitude than the coronavirus, the threat to human health is a reminder that disease and contamination concerns can quickly spiral out of control.

After more than 100 people in 23 states were infected by romaine lettuce harvested in the California area, food safety protocols started undergoing serious scrutiny. That scare was closely followed by a set of salad recalls due to listeria concerns.

Getting ahead of potential issues and putting tracking measures in place is just one way to prepare yourself for contamination outbreaks. New technology is popping up all over the agriculture sector to combat losses in the event of contamination.

Those impacts aren’t negligible, either. The 2018 romaine lettuce outbreak saw a drop in romaine prices by more than half and sales plummeted by $71 million, according to news reports from The Wall Street Journal and Business Insider. And while the affected lettuce was farmed outdoors rather than under cover, warnings from the CDC to stop eating romaine altogether had many consumers swearing off lettuce altogether for the time being.

The terms blockchain and data tracking are popping up more and more often as produce growers make efforts to reduce waste, control quality, reduce costs and, in the event of a contamination scare, reassure customers that their produce is safe. It’s never too early to start thinking ahead.

While you might know that your produce is safe for consumption, the ability to back that claim up with cold, hard facts could become more of a necessity in coming months and years. And as younger generations put more importance on sustainability, carbon footprints and putting money back into their communities, tracking is becoming a great advantage for sales.

Kate Spirgen, Editor | kspirgen@gie.net | 216-393-0277