The Produce Traceability Initiative — a joint effort of the Produce Marketing Association, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association — has finalized a timeline for the produce industry to implement uniform traceability standards that will incorporate GS1 prefixes and Global Trade Identification Numbers. Growers, packers, processors and retailers will have opportunities to learn more about the program during PMA's 2008 Fresh Summit Convention and Exposition in Orlando, Fla., Oct. 24-27.
In the “Finding Your Place in Whole Chain Traceability” session held Saturday, Oct. 25, attendees will have a chance to hear about the program from Cathy Green, chief operating officer of Food Lion and chair of the PTI steering committee since its establishment last year, as well as from Doug Grant, vice president and chief operating officer of the Oppenheimer Group, and Alan Newton, vice president of information services for Duda Farm Fresh Foods.
Another session, “Raising the DataBar” on Friday, Oct. 24, will help introduce attendees to GS1 DataBar technology — a standardized, scannable bar that holds more information than current UPC bar codes and that was developed by the international not-for-profit GS1 standards organization. The session will be moderated by Tim Riley, senior vice president of the Giumarra Cos. Panelists will include Paul Stuart, senior produce category merchant for Wegmans, and Suzanne Wolter, director of marketing for the Rainier Fruit Co.
In the wake of this year's Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration first linked to tomatoes and then ultimately blamed on contaminated irrigation water at a pepper farm in Mexico, traceability quickly became a media buzzword, and experts were called before Congress to explain what had gone wrong. Although there have been rumblings of discontent among some industry members concerned about the cost of implementing the new standards, it should be noted that the produce industry's proactive approach to improving traceability standards may have helped it control its own destiny in this regard, rather than be subject to new federal regulations.
In his testimony before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture this summer, PMA president Bryan Silbermann explained the progress of the PTI, noting that “the initiative has moved quickly to create a standard methodology for maintaining key information. Comprised of more than 50 major produce buyers, sellers, brokers, terminal markets, distributors and wholesalers, the Produce Traceability Initiative's Steering Committee acknowledges that each member of the supply chain will have its own traceability system. However, these systems must be adapted so that important information can flow through the supply chain in a common format that uses existing global information standards. I want to stress the word global, because the solution we have developed must work for all fresh produce, no matter where [it's] grown or shipped.”