(Jan. 13) NEWARK, Del. — After months of planning, the Produce Marketing Association has released its best practices document for pallet and case coding.

Terry Humfeld, vice president of the association, said the document will serve as a basis for future efforts in case coding throughout the industry.

“As we move forward, we will fall back on this document as a critical piece for our members to utilize as they move ahead on issues such as traceability.”

Humfeld said the traceability task force formed by PMA and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa, will be using the document as they develop a best practices document for traceability in the produce industry.

The document was developed using the standardized codes created by the Uniform Code Council Inc., Princeton, N.J., and EAN International, Brussels, Belgium, the council’s European counterpart. The document outlines 14 best practices in all, including the use of global identification numbers and serial shipping container codes as standard product and pallet identification numbers.

The document also provides a glossary of terms, a list of frequently asked questions and information on how to implement a case coding program.

SHOULD SPEED UP ADOPTION

Humfeld said the document is expected to speed up the adoption process of case coding throughout the industry.

“Many different suppliers are using codes of a sort,” he said. “But they are not using the standardized codes developed by EAN and the UCC. This document helps those people move to an implementation phase quicker than they would otherwise.”

Greg Rowe, industry initiatives manager for the UCC, said he was pleased to see the completion of the document.

“It should help the industry,” he said. “It will be interesting to see if the new guidelines get more people involved with the UCC and EAN.”

Both groups assisted PMA in developing the document, which incorporates all of the case coding standards used by the groups.

FOOD SAFETY

Rowe said the document could be essential in developing food safety programs and guidelines as well.

“With all of the different food safety initiatives going on, this obviously helps in the fight to understand where a product is coming from and where it’s going,” he said.

Case coding also could be an important cost-saving initiative for both suppliers and retailers, Rowe said.

“Any time there’s any type of a recall, case coding should be able to help them narrow down the cost of a recall,” he said. “Rather than having to clean off all of their inventory, they can look at the specific lot numbers that come from the supplier.”

Case coding also could help save money by reducing errors because of information entered into a system incorrectly. According to the UCC, one out of every 300 manually keyed entries results in error, while only one out of every 3 million scanned in entries results in error.

PMA members can purchase an electronic copy of the document for $25. The nonmember price is $100. To order, contact the PMA at (302) 738-7100 or visit the Web site at www.pma.org.