Ray Connelly, “Spinach Crisis”

Spinach Crisis

by Ray C.


The spinach crisis of 2006 was a cataclysmic event for the entire agricultural industry.  Literally overnight, spinach, and most fresh leafy green vegetables, were dealt a serious blow.  A young boy named Kyle Allgood became national news when he came into contact with a bacteria called Escherichia coli O157:H7. His unfortunate death rocked consumer confidence and shut down the spinach and the leafy green industry within days of the initial press coverage.

This spinach crisis put a powerful spotlight onto the fresh food industry.  Current systems were inadequate to meet this type of problem. In addition to the health concerns, growers sustained immediate economic losses totaling in the millions.  Residual losses escalated over the following months and years as consumption rates for spinach and other leafy green products were significantly lower across all categories.
Lives could have been saved if traceability information was instantly available.  At that time, no one could tell the exact field where the spinach was grown, nor could they pinpoint the exact date the spinach was harvested and packaged.  Getting to the facts took a significant amount of research and strung out over an extended period of time.
Something needed to be done immediately.  Current tracing solutions proved woefully inadequate.

TRUETRAC began during this dark period, when a small, innovative group of growers got together and collaborated to form a traceability solution.  A solution such as this had never been attempted before. The goal was to pinpoint exactly where and when each commodity was harvested, down to the precise location in the field.  With the use of a barcode system, GPS sensors and customized packaging, the TRUETRAC solution was formed and went onto become a success across the industry.

In the wake of the spinach crisis, the food industry continues to experience problems.  Peanuts, tomatoes, cantaloupes, and eggs are but a few of the commodities that have been implicated in the news. New ideas were desperately needed and solutions like TRUETRAC formed the foundation for a broader system to service a complicated, high risk, international food production network.

Today, TRUETRAC technology has been blended into a national supply chain traceability platform called the Produce Traceability Initiative.  This broad-based, industry-driven effort was formed in 2007 in collaboration with growers, shippers, retailers, food service and other industry groups, including myself and my team at TRUETRAC.

The federal government has also stepped up, creating the Food Safety Modernization Act. This law is currently under review by the FDA but will become the basis for a sustainable, safe and traceable food system.  The North American food supply chain, unlike any other in the world, will soon be completely traceable in part from the creative ideas brought forward by my small team here at TRUETRAC.

Along with our success, in November 2012, my company, TRUETRAC was purchased by another agricultural technology innovator called FoodLink.  My entire TRUETRAC team including myself, have been merged into the FoodLink organization.  We continue to provide the same solutions, but today, TRUETRAC solutions are presented to the industry under the corporate banner of FoodLink.

Innovation, like what we accomplished at TRUETRAC, and continue to provide at FoodLink, facilitates a fully traceable network of food suppliers.  Systems like ours mean that consumers will continue to enjoy the healthiest, freshest, safest and most nutritious products from conscientious producers, operating in a completely transparent, supply-chain system.

City: Salinas
State: California
Time Period: 2000s
Themes: Technology