Adding to the debate has been a Presidential Commission recommending a national traceback system for food safety because some products are marketed without labels, others are produced by small suppliers, some products are mixed in the supply chain, and the health of consumers can decline in short order. The economists point to the 2006 problem with spinach, in which it was not possible to identify the originating farm for the tainted spinach. At that point the FDA advised consumers to not each spinach and store pulled all of their spinach from sale, regardless of its origin. Similarly, a 2009 test of a sample of pistachios found salmonella, and although it could not be found in other samples, consumers were warned to not eat pistachios regardless of their origin. Pistachios are still trying to restore public confidence and sales. The economists contend that an entire industry distributing a homogeneous product can suffer because of problems with one producer or production plant.

The economists created a proposal in which a food producer could continue to produce and sell a product in a second sales period, if the products met quality and traceability standards in an initial sales period. If the traceability is not successful, then all producers who are potential violators would have their products withdrawn in an industry-wide recall. The ag economists say, “Increased traceability protects the reputation of an industry from randomly occurring incidents by isolating the product from firms that were the source of the problem.”