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A first-ever status report on member companies’ implementation progress, including an update on 18 pilot projects now underway, were among the key highlights of the recent Produce Traceability Initiative’s (PTI) Leadership Council meeting in New Orleans, La.
New best practices to assist with implementation alongside positive comments from Food & Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods, Michael Taylor, were also among the highlights of the recent meeting, during which new results of a survey of Leadership Council member companies was revealed.
A breakdown of the 79 percent of member companies reporting an overall state of readiness to achieve all PTI milestones by the target completion date of 2012 is as follows: 94 percent of grower/packer/shipper members; 82 percent of retailer members; 71 percent of wholesaler/broker members; and 70 percent of foodservice members. No systemic issues to implementing the PTI were identified by council members, and working groups are already addressing the implementation challenges that members identified.
“The strong seller and buyer participation in the pilot projects reinforces the commitment to advancing PTI in our industry,” said Leadership Council Chair Cathy Green Burns, president of Food Lion. “We look forward to sharing the results of the pilots in the near future, and to continuing to provide valuable information to the industry in support of PTI implementation.”
Council members received updates on activities of the PTI’s various working groups, including a report on 18 pilot projects underway. Pilot tests are being conducted involving most major produce commodities, including apples, bananas, berries, citrus, tomatoes, celery, radishes, peppers, leafy greens, melons, potatoes, onions, sweet corn and table grapes. Twenty-four companies, including but not limited to council members, are participating in the pilot projects. Projects will identify and document best practices, implementation costs and benefits, and the time required to execute a complete trace.
Working groups also reported that several new best practices had been finalized and would be posted to the PTI website’s Resources section soon:
* updated best practices on case labeling;
* updated best practices for hybrid pallet labeling; and
* an applet for generating voice-pick codes.
FDA’s Taylor: ‘Don’t wait to implement traceability’
Presenting by telephone for a portion of the meeting, FDA’s Taylor clearly signaled his agency’s interest in collaborating with industry as FDA begins implementing the new Food Safety Modernization Act and its traceability component.
“We are keenly aware that industry has been at the forefront of understanding traceability, and in order to make progress we know we are going to need to build on and embrace the work that industry has done,” Taylor stated. When informed that some industry members are delaying implementing PTI until FDA regulations are finalized, Taylor responded, “When real progress is being made, we encourage that and we don’t want our process to be an obstacle.”
When asked what industries the PTI should model itself against, FDA Senior Advisor for Outbreak Response Sherri McGarry cited the produce industry as the traceability leaders in the food industry.
The meeting was the fourth regular meeting of the council, and the second face-to-face meeting, since the group was formed in August 2010 to provide greater supply chain participation in directing PTI activities.
“I am optimistic about the progress that has been made, we’ve clearly got a lot of momentum,” said Doug Grant of The Oppenheimer Group, who was approved as the council’s new co-chair. “We’re gaining speed with new best practices, pilot projects and other working group efforts getting underway now. And we’re very cognizant of the importance of having an effective solution that keeps costs and complexity to a minimum.”
Those interested in participating in PTI pilot projects are invited to contact Produce Marketing Association’s Ed Treacy by email at [email protected] or via phone at (302) 607-2118. Those interested in joining a PTI working group should contact GS1 US’s Patricia Buccheri by email at [email protected]. Industry members are encouraged to visit the official PTI website for assistance and for staff contact information.