Slapping a barcode on a carton, crate or clamshell of fresh produce does not, in itself, provide traceability for the product. Neither do radio frequency identification tags.

They help identify products effectively and, if done at batch level, can help perform traceability more quickly and accurately.

What gives products actual traceability is providing links to all information throughout the entire supply chain, giving an accurate history of a product.

That’s the belief of the partners of the Colorado Springs-based Traceability Institute LLC — they refer to it as “traceability interoperability” — and it’s why the institute has organized the Traceability Interoperability Summit 2010, Jan. 21-22 at the Sheraton Downtown hotel in Denver.

“The reason we set up this summit is we see a huge need by vendors of the traceability system for some kind of communication within the whole supply chain,” said Cristian Barcan, managing partner and founder of the Traceability Institute. “Nobody has done this before, so we think there’s a huge need there.”

Barcan said the institute invited vendors only for this first summit, but it plans on eventually expanding the conference to include food manufacturers, retailers and government entities, some of which Barcan spoke with Dec. 9-10 at a joint public meeting in Washington D.C.

Barcan said the summit is designed as a series of workshops with open forums and discussions. Key areas to be addressed include why interoperability is necessary, how to achieve it, who pays and how to balance the government and private side of the whole traceability issue.

A featured speaker is Jennifer McEntire, manager of science and technology projects at the Institute of Food Technologists, who has led that organization in initiatives in the areas of food safety and defense.

“Food traceability has little value unless it’s done at the whole-chain traceability level,” Barcan said. “Somebody has to link the A to B to C together to make the whole supply chain transparent.”

Institute partner Tim Downs said an eight-hour “traceability boot camp” that introduces the components and definitions of traceability, will be the day before the summit begins, Jan. 20, at the same hotel in Denver.

Downs said he expects between 100-120 participants in the summit.

For more information, go to the Traceability Institute’s Web site at