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Why the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is Necessary in the Supply Chain

valuable_assets.pngIt’s extremely important for those in the food and beverage industry to track and trace their procedures, especially those that involve produce. Produce traceability allows supply chain industry professionals to maximize the effectiveness of their current track and trace procedures.


What is the Produce Traceability Initiative?

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is “an industry-led, supply chain-wide Initiative governed by a 34-member Leadership Council.” In other words, it is a standardized approach applied to traceability systems to ensure improvement across the board.

The council’s work is carried out by volunteer groups, divided into the areas of Implementation, Master Data, Technology and Communications. The initiative is administered by Canadian Produce Marketing Association, GS1 US, Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association.

What does the PTI involve?

  • Standards for standardized product information
  • Case-level tracking
  • Electronic recordkeeping
  • Farm to store tracing

As mentioned, this process has been designed to improve the productivity and accuracy of current tracking and tracing processes in the supply chain.

Why trace produce?

That’s simple – it’s required by law. As per the U.S. Bioterrorism Act of 2002, every business that handles food products is required to keep records documenting their movement, including where it was sourced and where it was shipped.  And the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 mandates that food and beverage businesses be able to provide records of their food safety procedures upon request.

Not to mention, about 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tracing produce can help prevent that.

Why isn’t having an internal traceability system enough?b2ap3_thumbnail_bigstock-woman-choosing-apple-during-sh-35465351.jpg

In the event of a foodborne illness outbreak, electronic traceability across the supply chain will be able to aid the FDA in their investigation. Removing suspicious produce quick enough to protect public health is just not possible with methods that are unorganized or paper-based. If each business is doing things differently, it could be difficult and time-consuming to respond to a crisis. A technology-based system that is standardized across the supply chain allows the FDA to act as quickly as possible.

Implementing PTI processes is simple for supply chain businesses that already use barcode labels and readers, as those are the necessary tools. And for those who are still using paper-based, manual processes, the good news is that implementing barcode technology is the natural progression for advancing your business – and one that will provide you several benefits to offset the upfront costs of labels and readers.

What are the benefits?

  • Transparency is very important to today’s consumers. With PTI, your business can maintain the confidence of both consumers and government by making a commitment to food safety.
  • Recalls are the last thing a supply chain business wants on their plate. By limiting recalls to suspicious produce only, you can decrease their scope and cost.
  • Standardizing the tracing of produce allows you to act more quickly in the event of a crisis – you can make more accurate recalls and product withdrawals.
  • Full visibility, as a result of barcode technology and standardized identification, allows you to improve your inventory management and overall productivity. And with a well-managed inventory, orders can be delivered to retailers or food service distributors much more quickly.

Don’t wait; act now

Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods, discourages supply chain businesses from waiting to implement PTI until FDA regulations are finalized. “When real progress is being made, we encourage that and don’t want our process to be an obstacle,” he said, encouraging businesses to start improving their processes now.

To get started, explore your electronic traceability options by speaking with a barcode technology vendor. They can point you in the direction of the best barcode readers, labels and printers to meet your business’ needs.

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