John Y Brown, Jr. - A Food Traceability Wake Up Call

Mar 25

Former Kentucky Governor John Y Brown, Jr. has had a long and successful career as an entrepreneur and politician, but he is best known for his success in the restaurant industry. At the age of 31 he bought Kentucky Fried Chicken from founder Colonel Harlan Sanders and built it into a global brand. The Harvard School of Business credits Brown and Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald's, with launching the dynamic growth of the fast food industry. He sold Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1971 for $285 million.

Consumer demand for food safety, quality and nutritional value is growing. Governor Brown describes this as a wake up call for the restaurant industry, which has historically been focused on food costs. He is working with Alltech to spread the word to restaurant industry executives about the benefits of natural animal nutrition, food safety and traceability.

Traceability is a reality in many manufacturing industries, where it is comparatively easy to maintain records on individual components that go into an automobile or electronic device. In the food industry full traceability is a little more difficult. If you want to know all of the feed ingredients that have gone into a chicken breast on the grocery shelf you have to collect and maintain a lot of data throughout that chicken's life.

Complete food traceability is on its way but it will require industry-wide participation. The benefits are very real. With full traceability an incident of food contamination doesn't have to become a widespread food crisis. Take the example of an E. coli outbreak. The first challenge is to determine what food item caused the victims to become sick. From that point all of the potential processors, suppliers and farms have to be identified and sampled. In the meantime the public must be alerted and finally a massive recall may be issued. Public trust is eroded and billions of dollars may be lost throughout the food industry.

With a complete food traceability system in place each hamburger, package of spinach or tomato can be traced back through the supply chain, all the way to the farm. More importantly, everything that has left a farm, processing plant, or distribution hub, can be traced forward to the grocery shelves. This allows for a precise and quick recall. Fewer people are exposed to the contaminated products and perfectly safe food items are not discarded out of doubt and fear.

Do you think food traceability is achievable?

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