(Oct. 31) Industry traceability and implementation guidelines have been established by the Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, but cohesive execution of the standards has been a problem throughout the supply chain.

In an attempt to remedy the dilemma, the Newark, Del.-based PMA, the Ottawa-based CPMA and Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association recently announced their intent to form a joint Produce Traceability Initiative, said Gary Fleming, PMA’s vice president of industry and technology standards.

PMA is spearheading the program, with support from CPMA and United Fresh, Fleming said.

“The primary goal is to create an action plan that would create movement in the produce industry for adoption and implementation of produce traceability standards,” Fleming said.

“The use of these standards will ensure an effective traceability within the industry,” he said. A lot of voluntary standards have failed, so we hope to come up with something that has some teeth and accountability.”

A panel made up of senior-level executives from the buy-and-sell communities and representatives from various trade associations —will be selected by PMA, CPMA and United Fresh. They will be responsible for identifying what provisions need to be included in the Produce Traceability Initiative, said Fleming, who anticipated the panel would be in place by the end of October.

A series of round-table discussions will take place from there — with the ultimate goal of standardizing a traceability system that links the entire supply chain. There is no timeline for when an official document will be created, Fleming said.

PMA, CPMA and United will serve as panel facilitators, Fleming said.

“We’re trying to get each facet of the supply chain to talk with one another,” he said. “You can have a traceability system within your own four walls, but that doesn’t connect you with other members of the supply chain.”

Jane Proctor, director of industry technology and standardization for CPMA, echoed Fleming’s comments. He said it’s likely many companies already are employing traceability practices, but this new plan’s purpose is to unite.

“Don’t be frightened about the notion that now there’s something else you have to implement,” Proctor said. “You’re probably doing it already in your own business processes. This is something driven as a broad initiative.”