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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — GS1 and Global Trade Item Numbers play key roles in the Produce Traceability Initiative and were among the topics at an Oct. 4 PTI symposium hosted by RedLine Solutions.

PTI guards against guilt by associationGary Fleming, vice president, strategic services for RedLine Solutions and a lead architect of PTI, told participants everything they needed to know about GS1 and GTINs, including some details that may surprise some grower-shippers.

GS1 is a non-profit, Brussels-based global standards company that sets the standards on which the Produce Traceability Initiative is based, he said.

GS1 corporate creates standards for identification numbers, barcodes and electronics that its 145 member organizations implement within their regions.

GTINs, which are required to implement PTI, include a company prefix that uniquely identifies a company; a reference number that the owner of the company prefix assigns to identify an item, case, location or pallet; and a check digit, which is an algorithm that ensures the accuracy of the preceding digits, Fleming said.

The 14-digit GTIN is broken down as follows:

Position 1: A packaging indicator (a number from 1 through 8);

Position 2-13: A combination of the GS1 company prefix and reference number; and

Position 14: A check digit.

The Universal Product Code company prefix ranges from six to nine digits, and the case reference number ranges from two to five digits, depending on how many different products a company produces.

The serialized shipping container codes (SSCCs) used on pallets consist of an 18-digit number broken down as follows:

Position 1: Packaging type;

Positions 2-17: A combination of the GS1 company prefix and pallet serial; and

Position 18: a check digit.

What grower-shippers may not realize, Fleming said, is that “There are certain GS1 processes that do not apply necessarily to the PTI.”

He advised grower-shippers to check the PTI website — producetraceability.org — to determine specific PTI requirements.

He said, for example, that it is not necessary to go through GS1 to obtain GTINs.

“Growers and shippers can create their own GTIN numbers,” he said.

GTINs come in handy when the Food and Drug Administration is trying to find the source of an outbreak of foodborne illness.

“Within seconds, you’ll be able to help them with their investigation,” Fleming said.

That’s quite a difference from the past, when it might take weeks to sort through thousands of paper purchase orders stored in a filing cabinet.

“In a commodity industry like produce, we’re guilty by association,” Fleming said. “The PTI not only minimizes the amount of product that you have to pull from the supply chain, it also clears you from being guilty by association.”