ORLANDO, Fla. -- A new Best Practices report on produce traceability examines the adoption of a "One Up/One Down" model and the creation of a standardized data exchange and product database, according to a presentation at the recent Fresh Summit 2003 here.
Doug Grant, chief information officer, The Oppenheimer Group, a produce marketer based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, updated retailers and suppliers on the Best Practices report during the FreshTech program at the Fresh Summit convention and exposition, held Oct. 17 to 21 at the Orange County Convention Center. The show was sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del.
The Best Practices report, developed by the Traceability Task Force to facilitate enhanced traceability of fresh produce, has been in the works for about a year. It incorporates the efforts of 17 retailers (including Loblaws and Save Mart supermarkets), suppliers and industry associations.
The Task Force, a joint effort of the PMA and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa, is urging suppliers and food retailers to comment on the report, which will be posted on the associations' Web sites by late November.
The Task Force is also looking for about 20 more suppliers and retailers to participate in pilot projects on traceability models starting next year. A new PMA and CPMA pilot project, slated to start in January, will test the "One Up/One Down" model and a data synchronization model, as well as investigate RFID (radio frequency identification). Produce traceability, which has received increased attention as a result of concerns about bioterrorism, will have its own show next year, the Global Produce Traceability Conference, to be held Feb. 7 and 8 in conjunction with the CPMA's Annual Convention in Calgary.
At the Fresh Summit, Grant reviewed the primary traceability models covered in the report. For example, the Task Force is looking at the "One Up/One Down" model, in which companies only need to be concerned about traceability with their immediate trading partners, upstream and downstream in the supply chain. Best practices would include industrywide adoption of the EAN-128 bar code on pallets, as well as Advanced Shipping Notices in electronic data interchange, Grant said.
The report also includes a data synchronization model for traceability. Following the "One Up/One Down" model in which suppliers and retailers are communicating directly with each other, it suggests that companies synchronize or map product information one time into an Industry Product Database containing standard product attributes. Once this is done, any future trading partners would be automatically mapped, significantly reducing administrative time and cost. The PMA recently formed committees to move the Industry Product Database forward.
In addition, an external data exchange or central data pool, similar to a system already used in Europe by suppliers and retailers, is needed, Grant said. "It would act as an industry Yellow Pages for traceability," he said. In this model, suppliers and retailers would share case and lot numbers, not confidential information. In such a system, retailers could track shipments by simply entering a purchase order number.
Grant also said that an industry standard on bar codes needs to be developed. He explained various options, including a bar code that is sprayed on product packaging in the production line. He said the Uniform Code Council has already come up with a usable standard.