ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Produce Traceability Initiative continues to be the industry’s best option to comply with federal law.


At an Oct. 2 Fresh Summit workshop, Gary Fleming, vice president of industry technology and standards for the Produce Marketing Association, said each level of the supply chain was considered in the PTI, a joint program of PMA, the United Fresh Produce Association and the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.


Fleming stressed that even companies that haven’t gotten up to speed on the PTI milestones need to have some ability to trace their product one step up and one step back, since that was mandated in the Bioterrorism Act of 2002.


He said PTI does not recommend one vendor’s system over another as long as its stores the Global Trade Identification Number and lot number.


The first two of seven PTI milestones mainly affected the supply side, but the third, which is where suppliers share their GTINs with their buyers, involves some work on the buyers’ side.


Mike O’Brien, vice president of produce and floral for Schnuck Markets Inc., St. Louis, said PTI is going to be expensive for buyers and sellers.


“Tracking cases is what it’s about, but the real answer (for PTI) is giving consumers confidence,” he said.


Tom Casas, vice president of IT and mechanization for Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, said when he first mentioned within his company that traceability was something it would have to invest in, the idea was met with denial, then anger, and finally acceptance.


“The cost doesn’t really hit hard until you need to put bar codes on every box,” he said.


When the company went through a recent recall of romaine, Casas said its traceback technology limited the recall to 20,000 cases. But it could have been less because, he said, after its lettuce went to chains’ distribution centers T&A didn’t know where the product went.


“PTI will narrow the scope of recalls,” Casas said.


Fleming advised companies to work on a pilot traceability program to see how compliant they are with PTI before a real recall hits.