Pundit’s Mailbag — Traceability Precision
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, February 29, 2008
Our piece, Traceability Committee Cuts To The Chase For Workable Standards, brought this letter requesting some clarification:
I was hoping you could help in providing clarification for a point in the article published about traceability for produce companies. I currently work for a manufacturing company that develops VA-type products. The question I have is in the level of traceability that is going to be required for a case. In reading the GS1 traceability documentation, there are three levels of precision, which include GTIN, GTIN+LOT and GTIN+SGTIN.
I am trying to get clarification on what precision standard would be used for case identification.
— Dennis Flynn
We thank Dennis for the letter. The Produce Traceability Initiative has just come off its second meeting, held February 22 in Atlanta. It looks like the initiative is working, as it seems close to developing some specifics on exactly what will be required by the industry and when it will be required — all in the cause of full traceability.
Especially crucial is that the buying end of the community seems poised to buy into the program — and that is really crucial if we are to motivate the entire supply base to move to these standards.
We’ve promoted the importance of traceability for some time:
- We started out by asking Gary Fleming, Vice President of Industry Technology and Standards of the Produce Marketing Association, for his insight into this crucial area. First, in Guest Pundit — Traceability And the Need For A Common Language, Gary explained the vital role that data standards play in any industry-wide effort to begin a trace-back and trace-forward capability.
- Then, in Guest Pundit — Pairing The Global Language With Technology, Gary explained how we could actually implement such a vital strategy. Following this, we produced an article entitled, Guest Pundit: Traceability — A Forgotten Piece of Food Safety, in which Gary, who had gone to Argentina in search of an effective traceability solution, explained what he found.
- Bruce Peterson resigned from Wal-Mart and people wondered what his next step would be. Then a press release was issued, pointing out that he had entered into a “partnership” with Michael McCartney, Principal of QLM Consulting, to promote a traceability initiative for the fresh produce trade. We spoke to Bruce to see what his plans were. That piece, Bruce Peterson Focuses On Traceability, explained Bruce’s main point that the produce industry is more likely to reduce the negative impact of food safety outbreaks by enhancing traceability than through any other measure.
- We also reached out to Michael McCartney, and he explained his role in the Peterson/McCartney Initiative; we published that piece under the title, Getting A Better Grasp On Traceability.
- Jane Proctor, Director of Industry Technology and Standardization for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, then sent a note which we included in a piece entitled, Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA & PMA To Lead Industry Closer To Global Traceability. This piece featured new data from a study on traceability.
- Traceability Falls Short at Distributor Level was written in response to the high cost of recalls, as it became clear that small amounts of doubtful products were requiring distributors to conduct large recalls. We also ran Pundit’s Mailbag — When It Comes To Traceability, We Have The Technology, which included key letters from both Alan Siger of Consumers Produce Co., Inc. of Pittsburgh and Scott Danner of Liberty Fruit Co., Inc. pointing out that technology and business systems already exist to have strong traceability at the distributor level.
- PMA, CPMA And United Form Traceability Initiative focused on a rare joint announcement by the North American trade associations to jointly conduct a traceability initiative. We then published Traceability Initiative Lacks Full Industry Representationn, urging that the makeup of the steering committee be expanded to include wholesale/distributor companies.
- Traceability Group Meets Tuesday celebrated the upcoming initial meeting of the Produce Traceability Initiative in Atlanta. We then published, Traceability Committee Cuts To The chase For Workable Standardsds, which reported on the results of the first Produce Traceability Initiative meeting, including settling on the GS1 standard, the importance of a timeline, the commitment required and the decision to focus on a case level initiative.
Our early pieces on traceability were all written by Gary Fleming, Vice President, Industry Technology & Standards at the Produce Marketing Association and an industry expert on traceability.
We asked Gary for help clarifying Dennis Flynn’s question: What level of precision is likely to be required for a case of produce? Gary was kind enough to give a succinct answer:
Regarding the “level of precision” needed for traceability on produce cases, there are three things that will be required on the case:
2. Lot #
3. Pack/Harvest Date (*if not already embedded as part of the Lot #).
Well, there you have it. Three things on every case. Let’s make it happen.
Many thank to Dennis for posing the question and to Gary for helping us answer it. Traceability is an area where the industry, after many years of struggle, is finally poised to move ahead. Everyone pulling along is helping their own organization, while also helping the trade as a whole.