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The Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association announced the launch of producetraceability.org, an on-line resource to aid produce companies in the transition to new traceability measures proposed by the joint Produce Traceability Initiative.

Producetraceability.org, which is administered by the three associations, features resources and educational tools for those wanting to learn more about the initiative, a list of companies that support the initiative, a bulletin board and question-and-answer section for industry questions and discussion, a news and events section, a press room containing recent news releases, headshots of spokespersons, contact information, and an art gallery.

"The web site will be a great resource for any one who wants to know more about the PTI and how to meet the milestones that the steering committee recommended," Cathy Green, steering committee chairman and chief operating officer of Food Lion LLC, said in a press release. "There are still important industry questions that need to be answered, and we plan to use the web site as an information forum."

Since October, more than 40 companies from throughout the produce supply chain have endorsed the recommendations developed by the PTI steering committee to move the supply chain to a common standard for electronic produce traceability by the end of 2012.

The plan involves adopting a standardized system of case bar-coding for all produce sold in the United States in order to allow product to be tracked throughout the distribution chain. The plan will maximize the effectiveness of the industry's current traceability procedures, improve external efficiencies and assist public officials when they need to quickly trace a product back to its source.

Intended to enhance overall supply chain traceability in speed and efficiency, a standardized system could significantly improve the industry's ability to narrow the impact of product recalls.

Producetraceability.org aims to assist in the fulfillment of seven steps devised by the steering committee to move the supply chain to chainwide electronic traceability by late 2012.

According to the recommendations, by the first quarter of 2009, "brand owners" (the owner of the brand that appears on the product in the case) should obtain GS1-issued company prefixes required to create Global Trade Identification Numbers and assign 14-digit GTINs to every case configuration they pack. They should then provide those GTINs to their buyers by the third quarter of 2009 so that buyers can input these data into their information- management systems. By the third quarter 2010, brand owners should begin placing the GTIN and lot number on case labels in human-readable form and machine-readable barcodes. Each subsequent handler of the case should be able to scan and store the GTIN and lot number on inbound cases in 2011 and on outbound cases in 2012.