Produce Traceability Initiative Momentum Continues as Buyers Prepare for Implementation Rollouts


Produce Traceability Initiative Leadership Council members agree the increasing percentage of produce cases marked with PTI labels is a reassuring sign that momentum for PTI continues to be supported by buyers who are preparing to receive labels later this year. The council, representing 32 companies in the produce industry, held its biannual meeting in conjunction with the United Fresh 2013 Discover Fresh Horizons event in San Diego, Calif., and reported that buyers are seeing between 22 and 50 percent of produce cases with PTI labels at their distribution centers and other facilities.

The council discussed implementation activities and progress made by both the grower/packer/shipper and buyer community, including a pilot project report about the benefits of using Advance Ship Notices (ASNs) as an alternative to hybrid pallet tags to facilitate sharing Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), Batch/Lot Numbers, and other key data elements useful for produce traceability.

"Based on industry experiences shared by both suppliers and buyers, PTI Leadership Council members agree that using ASNs with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or a simple flat file format is a promising method of sharing traceability information among trading partners," said Doug Grant, co-chair of the council and senior vice president and chief operations officer of The Oppenheimer Group that recently conducted a pilot using ASNs and will publish the results in the next few weeks.

The council also reviewed comments that the four administering organizations of the PTI are planning to submit to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to the traceability recommendations made by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in support of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Members agreed to provide joint comments from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, GS1 US, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association on behalf of their members to express that PTI guidelines and best practices are in alignment with IFT traceability recommendations, conveying that the associations are not suggesting additional regulations are needed beyond the current law. Once finalized, the comments will be available on the PTI website prior to the submission deadline of July 3, 2013, to the FDA.

To provide a broader view of industry traceability efforts and discussions underway, Hilary Thesmar, vice president of food safety programs at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), briefed the PTI leadership on traceability-related priorities for FMI's Food Protection Committee that reports to the FMI Board level Food Safety Committee, and on the work of the Fresh Foods Executive Council.

"The great turnout and participation at our Leadership Council meeting demonstrate the industry's continued commitment to PTI implementation," said Mike Agostini, senior director, produce, Wal-Mart Stores, co-chair of the PTI Leadership Council. "The sell side of our industry is ready, buyers are also preparing for rollouts in the near future, and the collaboration of the PTI community is helping the industry make progress with shared goals and growing expertise."