WASHINGTON -- The produce industry may start promoting high-level
executive buy-in to accelerate adoption of its Produce Traceability Initiative,
one of several issues discussed Feb. 19 during a meeting of the initiative's
More than 50 members of the steering committee met in Dallas to discuss
results of a survey conducted by the Produce Marketing Association and the
United Fresh Produce Association in recent months to gauge the produce
industry's progress in meeting the milestones for chainwide traceability.
"The intent of our meeting was to measure PTI progress, identify and
prioritize issues facing us, and discuss plans to address these," Cathy Green
of Food Lion, who is chairman of the steering committee, said in a Feb. 22
press release. "We focused strongly on feedback received from industry
surveys, from other committee members and from our own experience over
the past 18 months. As the leader of a supermarket company committed to
PTI, I found it very gratifying to hear for myself that other committee
members are also moving forward to meet the milestones established in the
However, the groups have yet to make public results of the survey completed
in January on the industry's progress in adopting a voluntary industry
"It was a very forward-thinking discussion, and the steering committee
unanimously reaffirmed PTI as the right way to go," said Julia Stewart, public
relations director at PMA.
During the Feb. 19 meeting, GS1 US presented a summary of its new
Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative, a similar whole-chain tracing
program. The initiative is striving for 75 percent adoption of GS1 standards
throughout the foodservice industry, measured in terms of revenue, by 2015,
according to the company's web site.
That foodservice initiative has moved "remarkably quickly" because of
widespread support from chief executive officers in foodservice companies,
and industry representatives heard the message, said Ms. Stewart. "Because
CEOs say 'Do it,' it's getting done."
The business environment has changed since the initiative was launched, and
there must be "more senior executive engagement as well as better ongoing
communication and education outreach" to move the initiative forward, said
Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of PMA.
GS1 US has signed on to play a greater role in PTI, though its role has yet to
be determined. GSI US can reach more industry members and provide
technical assistance, according to Ms. Stewart.
Still, cost and the uncertainty of new federal traceability requirements remain
major challenges for companies to move beyond the one-step-forward, one-
step-back traceability systems required by the Bioterrorism Act.
"With the hard work of implementing these traceability steps well underway,
the complexity and cost of this effort is proving challenging to many
companies," said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of United Fresh. "The
steering committee candidly discussed the need for greater stakeholder
involvement across the industry, a clearer understanding of the most cost-
effective strategies for addressing each milestone, and a focus on ensuring
that PTI results in the ability to more narrowly define future recalls and
produces a real [return on investment] for the industry."