More Than Food Traceability: The Case of Cassava Exporters from Costa Rica

Since the passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in January 2011, producers, as well as other participants in the export chain, have been faced with new regulations and requirements, which have created new challenges. In looking at the...


Among other conclusions that this research effort reached, is that the actual agricultural practices allow for the implementation of traceability practices for shipments, but programs must be developed and implemented now in order to meet and comply with the new FDA requirements forthcoming. Process adjustments also need to be introduced at the farm and packaging levels. Nonetheless, the biggest challenge is to take advantage and to further improve the actual technological platform in line with the upcoming data and information reporting needs that the new FSMA regulations imply. The absence of information and its registration represents a vulnerable point in regards to traceability, due to the fact that an adverse event that could require doing a trace back inquiry for a specific lot will not have enough information to properly describe the processing conditions.

Digital government tools that are already in operation, such as Costa Rica’s Procomer’s (Costa Rica’s Foreign Trade Corporation) single window for exports, can help enhance the country’s platform in dealing with traceability issues by centralizing and digitalizing essential information related to exported products. In fact, the current window system already captures a large share of traceability-related information.

The GT TIP Center’s endeavor to develop a holistic methodology to map and analyze fresh produce has shown to be very effective in determining the traceability capabilities of the system. It has also proven to be very helpful in determining process adjustments needed at the farm and packaging levels, and in analyzing the gaps and risks within those processes. This methodology can be easily adapted and applied to other countries for a variety of produce to show where one can benefit from analyzing how “traceability ready” they truly are.

 

Emmanuel Hess is the general manager of Georgia Tech’s Trade, Innovation & Productivity Center in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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