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Many companies are meeting the Produce Traceability Initiative's first milestones, but the industry is also taking a wait-and-see approach in tackling the final steps, according to a new survey released March 25.

The produce industry has been eagerly awaiting results from an on-line survey of 263 fresh fruit and vegetable companies conducted to benchmark the adoption of the Produce Traceability Initiative. Results of the survey were shared with the PTI steering committee at a Dallas meeting last month but were not released to the public until March 25.

The Produce Marketing Association, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association adopted a seven-step action plan in 2008 to set up a case-level electronic tracking system by 2012.

"We're glad to hear that many in the industry are committed to enhancing traceability and are working on implementation," Julia Stewart, PMA's public relations director, told The Produce News March 31. More than 80 percent of respondents said they were aware of the PTI, 70 percent were actively working toward implementing it, and 58 percent said they were on target to meet the milestones, she said.

Following is a breakdown of the survey's findings:

* 70 percent of brand owners said they have a GS1 prefix (milestone 1).

* 64 percent have assigned Global Trade Item Numbers for every case configuration (milestone 2).

* 42 percent of brand owners have established a process to pass GTIN information to their buyers, with 16 percent using the PTI-developed Data Synchronization Template spreadsheet for communicating GTIN information to their trading partners (milestone 3). Only 30 percent of receivers said that they have been contacted by suppliers for GTIN information.

But the survey also found that some in the industry have adopted a wait- and-see attitude for taking the next steps in embracing the PTI, with only 54 percent of brand owners responding that they are working toward adopting human-readable information on cases (milestone 4), which is targeted to be completed by the third quarter of 2010.

The costs associated with hardware, software, logistics and maintenance are the top concern in embracing the PTI, according to a summary of the survey. Other concerns were duplication of existing traceback systems, pending federal legislation, insufficient resources and lack of clear commitment across the supply chain.

"We weren't surprised to hear the top barrier was cost, and that many people had a wait-and-see attitude and uncertainty in whether trading partners [were following through]," said Ms. Stewart.

The steering committee is planning to act on the report's findings, perhaps by allowing companies that are on track for embracing PIT to share their stories and cost-saving tips, she suggested.