In the fall of 2007, the produce industry decided to address the need for more effective traceability systems that would quickly narrow down the source of an outbreak and avoid nationwide recalls that were devastating the industry — like the 2006 spinach recall. What emerged was the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), sponsored by the Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association.
While many industry initiatives drag on for months and even years before showing any real progress, by October 2008, the PTI had established its major milestones and a timeline for meeting them. It is now regarded as a traceability template for other food sectors, and serves as a guide for federal policy makers and legislators working on food safety reform.
The person given credit for making sure that the PTI’s various constituents rapidly came together on a workable industry plan is Cathy Green, chief operating officer for Food Lion, Salisbury, S.C., who served as chair of PTI’s steering committee from January to December, 2008.
At the PMA’s Fresh Summit conference last October in Orlando, Fla., Bryan Silbermann, PMA’s president and chief executive officer, presented Green with a commendation expressing the industry’s “great appreciation for your inspiring leadership of the Produce Traceability Initiative.” As chair of the steering committee, “she was constantly saying, ‘Let’s look at the big picture — what we’re trying to accomplish here,’” he recently told SN. “She kept people focused and prevented us from going off on tangents.”
In essence, to achieve traceability, the PTI calls for three key pieces of information, based on global standards, to be applied to produce cases and then scanned and stored throughout the supply chain: global trade item numbers (GTINs), lot numbers and pack or harvest dates. The PTI Action Plan sets forth step-by-step guidelines for companies to achieve this, starting in 2009 and concluding in 2012. It is available at www.producetraceability.org.
“I believe we have developed the right program for the industry,” said Green, who became COO of Food Lion in 2005 after more than 20 years at Hannaford Bros. and Food Lion. “We wanted to ensure we continue to build the confidence and trust of consumers.”
Meanwhile, Food Lion is on track to meet the PTI’s milestones, and Green continues to participate in the PTI, helping to assess its progress.
— Michael Garry