Amid mounting safety concerns, technology helps track food from farm to table

Recalls push more companies to adopt digital tools that can prevent or contain the harm caused by contaminated food.

By P.J. Huffstutter, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Jose — Inside a Silicon Valley company’s windowless vault, massive servers silently monitor millions of heads of lettuce, from the time they are plucked from the dirt to the moment the bagged salad is scanned at the grocery checkout counter.

That trail can be traced in seconds, thanks to tiny high-tech labels, software programs and hand-held hardware gear. Such tools make it easier for farmers to locate possible problems — a leaky fertilizer bin, an unexpected pathogen in the water, unwashed hands on a factory floor — and more quickly halt the spread of contaminated food.

This Dole Food Co. project and similar efforts being launched across the country represent a fundamental shift in the way that food is tracked from field to table. The change is slow but steady as a number of industry leaders and smaller players adopt these tools.

EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute –


EU, Latin American Accord Ends Banana-Import Dispute (Update1)

By Jennifer M. Freedman

Dec. 15 (Bloomberg) — The European Union and Latin American countries including Ecuador and Guatemala reached an agreement over the EU’s banana-import policies, settling the longest-running dispute at the World Trade Organization.

Under the deal secured today, which also has U.S. backing, the EU will cut duties on bananas from Latin America to 114 euros ($166) a metric ton from 176 euros over seven years, the European Commission said in a statement from Brussels. The change means banana prices in the EU will drop 11 percent while Latin American producers will see exports climb, said Giovanni Anania, a professor at the University of Calabria in Italy.

“The clear winner will be the Latin American countries, because they will expand their exports to the EU by roughly 17 percent,” he said in a telephone interview. “Total exports of bananas from Latin America to all markets will increase by 3.2 percent” while producers in African and Caribbean countries will see shipments of the fruit to the EU decline 14 percent.

Companies and consumers in the U.S. will also be affected, Anania said. Exports from companies such as Dole Food Co. and Chiquita Brands International Inc. that grow and ship bananas from Latin America will increase while the supply of the fruit in the U.S. will drop, “driving up prices minimally,” he said.

Del Monte quitting pineapple here | The Honolulu Advertiser


  • Del Monte’s news of closure stuns, upsets workers
  • Union optimistic about retraining, aid

By Dan Nakaso and Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writers

Del Monte Fresh Produce will plant its last pineapple crop this month at the Kunia plantation and cease its more than century-old Hawai’i operation at the end of 2008, eliminating the jobs of more than 700 pineapple workers on O’ahu.

Some of the Del Monte employees include husbands, wives and children in the same families, said Fred Galdones, president of the ILWU’s Local 142, which represents the unionized workers.

"It will have a very far-reaching effect on the families," said Galdones, whose union represented thousands of sugar workers who lost their jobs when O’ahu’s sugar industry died a decade ago. "Like the sugar workers, this will be very traumatic for those families."

State Rep. Michael Magaoay, D-46th (Kahuku, North Shore, Schofield), who grew up in the Mill Camp of the now-defunct Waialua Sugar plantation, said: "We need to look at the hysteria that people are going to have."

Del Monte’s decision will leave Dole Food Co. as the only major pineapple grower on O’ahu. Dole employs about 250 unionized workers, Galdones said.

Maui Land & Pineapple’s subsidiary, Maui Pineapple Co., remains the state’s largest pineapple producer, with operations on more than 6,000 acres on Maui, according to Brian Nishida, Maui Pineapple’s president and CEO.

In 2004, Hawai’i’s pineapple industry employed 1,200 workers, according to state figures.