Produce Traceability Committee Preps Industry-wide Standards

NEWARK, Del. - Following its inaugural meeting earlier this month, a committee of leaders from the Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and United Fresh Produce Association, reached agreement on several important steps leading to an action plan for the Produce Traceability Initiative, a consistent industry-wide traceability solution.

In addition to endorsing GS1 and beginning at case-level initially, the group -- along with representatives from more than 30 companies from a broad cross-section of the supply chain -- encouraged companies to move toward item-level coding where feasible.

Chaired by Cathy Green, c.o.o. at Food Lion and facilitated by The Perishables Group's e.v.p. Steve Lutz, the committee agreed that systematic and consistent application of common standards across the supply chain is needed to enhance traceability, building the next critical step beyond the internal traceability systems already at many different companies.

"It's clear from the committee's discussions that now is the time to move aggressively to adopt a consistent industry-wide approach to traceability," said Green. "The industry can no longer afford to do business the way we have in the past. Everyone will need to make some investments - big and small companies, buyers and sellers - and while we recognize there are significant challenges of traceability, there is broad support from the industry and a deep commitment to act."

The committee reached agreement on four key elements for implementing industry-wide traceability standards:
- Confirmed past industry support that the GS1 produce traceability standard developed by the international standards organization GS1 (formerly known as EAN-UCC) is the most efficient worldwide approach to achieve system-wide traceability, and should be widely adopted as the produce industry standard.
- A formal industry timeline for adoption of standards is needed. Steering committee participants agreed to begin evaluating what might be required to implement GS1 standards within their own operations, and will report back at the next committee meeting on recommended implementation timelines.
- Discuss ways in which companies could best show their support and commitment to adoption.
- Adopt standards at the case level initially as the backbone of supply chain traceability. However, the committee encourages companies to move toward item-level coding as feasible, as many produce products are now packaged for the consumer, thereby offering a viable option for providing traceability to the item level.

The steering committee will meet again in the coming weeks to form subcommittees that will address specifics such as setting timelines for adoption. In addition, all three produce associations involved will post on their Web sites the committee's minutes, as well as presentations and other guides and resources being used as part of this initiative, for their members' access and input.
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