Growers work to meet last traceability deadline

05/15/2012 12:39:00 AM
Tom Burfield

Growers appear to be making steady progress in meeting the seventh and final milestone for the Produce Traceability Initiative that will become effective this year—they’ll have to read and store information on outbound cases.

Exact participation numbers were being compiled in February, but Dan Vache, vice president, supply chain management for United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, D.C., says, “From the supply side, it’s about where we expected it to be.”

The PTI is an attempt administered by Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, Canadian Produce Marketing Association and GS1 US to help develop a standardized industry approach to speed traceability.

In 2008, an industrywide steering committee set a series of specific time goals—or milestones—for launching various stages of a traceback program. If all goes according to plan, the program will enable any case of produce to be traced from grower to retailer this year.

The overall objective, Vache says, is to instill confidence in consumers that “when they go to a store, they buy what is healthy.”

Most growers already had their own traceability programs, he says. The purpose of the PTI is to put everyone on the same page with their traceback program by assigning Global Trade Item Numbers and a common traceback protocol.

PTI helps with quality, too

Borders Melons East of Adel, Ga., already had a traceback system in place when the company decided to sign on to the Produce Traceability Initiative, says Benny Ensley, general manager.

The company had to make a few modifications to adopt the standard label recommended by the PTI and assign Global Trade Item Numbers.

“It took a goodly amount of time to set it up,” Ensley says.

Now the company can trace back product from any of its 1,500 acres of watermelons “to wherever you want to trace it,” he says.

The company has used the system for quality control purposes, but fortunately has not had to implement any recalls.

The system was not terribly expensive because the company was already about two-thirds of the way there, Ensley says.

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