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4/16/2012 8:10:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

iTECH: Advanced RFID Tracks More Than Location

The Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2011, requires the Food and Drug Administration to establish a system to track and trace domestic and imported foods.

Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of food and drugs, said the law represents “a sea change for food safety in America.”

“We will establish science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of fruits and vegetables to minimize the risk of serious illnesses or death, and we will set standards for the safe transportation of food.”

Although standards are not yet set, Jon Samson, director of the Agricultural and Food Transporters Conference of American Trucking Associations, said traceability will “play a larger role in food safety and security” and technology that allows the tracking of a product along that entire supply chain “will be crucial” to have for shippers and carriers alike.

Shippers and receivers probably will be affected by regulations more than freight carriers, Samson said. Shippers and receivers “are in possession of the products the majority of the time before it reaches the consumer, which allows greater opportunity for something to go wrong,” he said.

Shawn Allaway, president of Cooltrax Americas, Nashua, N.H., said his company, which started in Australia in 2001, has targeted food distribution in North America as a potentially huge market for RFID systems because food retailers and restaurant operators “are putting pressure on food manufacturers and distributors to provide verification of product management.”

Allaway said that pressure is forcing companies to confront some “old-school” practices, such as a driver who temporarily shuts off a refrigeration unit because it is too noisy, a warehouse manager who claims he can hold an ice cream container to tell if it is the proper temperature and the manager who says he’s never lost a load.

“Having a tracking system can dispel any doubt about loads,” Allaway said. “Some organizations don’t want visibility because the people handling the product are telling management that everything is OK. Our business is myth-busting.”

One of the companies using Cooltrax’s RFID system is Core-Mark Holding Co. The San Francisco-based company, which distributes fresh food and merchandise to grocery and convenience stores, ranks No. 87 on Transport Topics’ Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in the United States and Canada. Its fleet has 288 tractors, seven straight trucks and 377 trailers.

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