Leaders of the Produce Traceability Initiative want more retailers to plug in and turn on to the industry’s push toward case-level traceability.

PTI, introduced in 2008, is the produce industry’s voluntary plan to implement electronic case level traceability by the end of 2012. Interim timelines for PTI were relaxed at the end of May when grower-shippers and regional trade associations raised concerns about retail commitment to the plan.

Cathy Green, president of Food Lion LLC, Salisbury, N.C., and chair the PTI steering committee is now leading a plan to reach out to six of the top ten U.S. retailers at the chief executive office level, said Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association.

Retailers are being sought to serve on the PTI leadership council, he said.

“We want to make sure that industry understands and the trading partners understand the urgency to do this and we need to be cohesive in developing whole chain traceability,” Vache said in a June 23 web seminar sponsored by Santa Clara-based RedLine Solutions Inc.

Retail input has been slow and not vocal enough about the importance of PTI, he said.

About 60 people participated in the RedLine event, said chief operating officer Chris Davis. He said June 28 that he was pleased with the decision to seek retail input.

“I think it is a great sign and something that needed to happen,” Davis said.

Still, he said grower-shippers have told him that many of them are not hearing much about PTI from their customers.

“I think retailers are still the missing link,” he said. “(Retailers) have to show their commitment to the process and then the grower shippers will follow along appropriately."

During the June 23 web event, Vache said that Lawrenceville, N.J.-based GS1 US is now a full sponsoring partner of the PTI along with United Fresh, Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association and Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association. GS1 US provides brand owners with identifying code applied to cases.

Vache said PTI is creating working groups to address each phase of the initiative, from grower-shippers, to data pools through the receipt of produce and the outbound solution milestone in 2012.

He said United Fresh and other PTI partners plan to coordinate pilot projects, a new initiative announced in late May.

“We need to make sure that we give everyone an understanding how it will look for different commodities,” he said.

Issues such as costs and length of implementation, field-packing best practices, employee training, and potential efficiencies gained will be some of the topics examined, he said.

A full recording of the web seminar can be found here.