By David Mitchell

The Produce Traceability Initiative is moving closer to establishing implementation dates for case-level traceability standards.

"We need to move fast on this, especially in light of the tomato situation," says Gary Fleming, vice president of industry technology and standards for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association.

A Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak linked to fresh tomatoes has sickened more than 850 people in 36 states and Washington, D.C., since early April. The Food and Drug Administration has expressed frustration about the difficulty of tracing bulk produce sold without bar codes.

The initiative — a joint effort of PMA, the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association and the Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association — is trying to establish implementation dates for case-level traceability with plans to later address item-level traceability.

The group has more than 50 companies, including distributors, grower-shippers and retailers.

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