(Feb. 16) CALGARY, Alberta — Traceability isn’t new to the produce industry.

Countries around the world have used some sort of traceability measures for some time. Linking all of those varied systems together into one global traceability system is what has everyone talking.

At the first Global Produce Traceability Conference Feb. 7-8, several representatives from foreign countries shared their experiences and traceability pilot programs with attendees. The goal was to learn what has worked so that in the future, the world can work to build a consistent traceability system.

While consistency is important, the open question was, “How much consistency is necessary?”

Each country with traceability systems in place has them set up based on local government regulations. Local economic factors, the design of growing practices and several other variables are taken into consideration when establishing traceability.

Most agree that the world needs to regulate the type of data that must be captured to accurately trace fruits and vegetables through the supply chain. However, most also agree that the world can’t have one exact model for carrying out traceability. How countries decide to implement the specified regulations should be left up to each country, they say.

Here’s a look at some of the pilot programs showcased during the business sessions.

NEW ZEALAND

In 2001 when exports were deregulated and shipments started coming from more than 80 exporters, New Zealand was glad to have already implemented several traceability measures. Catherine Richardson, president of CR Consulting, Havelock North, New Zealand, said exporters started using pallet codes in 1995 and the EAN 128 carton bar codes in 1996, which contain Global Trade Identification Numbers.

Through the pilot program, Richardson said, New Zealand exporters saw that traceability is as important to supplier logistics as it is to food safety.

SPAIN

Coplaca, a cooperation of plantain growers in the Canary Islands, has a traceability system in place for its shipments to Spain. Jose Javier Oramas Gonzalez-Moro said traceability is important because the co-op has 2,600 growers on five islands producing 140,000 tons of plantains per year.

Coplaca packers label all cases with the Serialized Shipping Container Code and lot number, and each case is scanned because one pallet can contain cases from several growers. Coplaca electronically tracks the cases through the supply chain.

Because retailers in Spain don’t make traceability a priority, Oramas said, Coplaca is developing a way for consumers to trace food. This summer, it plans to launch a Web site, www.coplaca.com, that will let consumers enter the Serialized Shipping Container Code number found on their bags of plantains and trace the item back to the grower.

CANADA

Doug Grant, chief information officer at The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, said the company imports product from more than 20 countries around the world, so traceability has been important.

The company uses the UCC.EAN standard, reference identification numbers, product synchronization, e-commerce, bar codes at the pallet level and pallet inventory systems to trace produce.

If a traceback was necessary, the company could refer to all of these points of reference.

ABBREVIATION DECODER

UCC: Uniform Code Council. Standards organization that administers the Universal Product Code. Committed to global standards that optimize the supply chain and business processes.

ECCC: Electronic Commerce Council of Canada. Maintains global standards for the identification of goods, locations and related e-commerce communication such as bar code issuance.

EAN: European Article Numbering. Association established in 1977 to develop a set of standards enabling the efficient management of global supply chains by uniquely identifying products.

EAN International: European Article Numbering International. The renamed association has 99 member organizations representing 101 countries. The UCC and the ECCC are members.

UCC.EAN standards: Global supply chain standards managed by EAN International and the UCC. It is the most widely implemented supply chain standard in the world.

GTIN: Global Trade Item Number. Globally unique product identifier that identifies the company, the item, the product hierarchy and other associated information like the production date, country of origin and handling instructions.

GLN: Global Location Number. Globally unique party and location identifier that includes key contact information and geographic reference. Uses the same numbering system as the GTIN.

SSCC: Serialized Shipping Container Code. Identifies complete shipping hierarchy, including the bill of lading and carrier GLN information. Uses the same numbering system as the GTIN.

AI: Application Identifier. Enables applications to interpret bar-coded information.