All Produce Traceability Initiative milestones are in the rearview mirror, but the end of the road for the voluntary initiative to apply case labels on fresh produce cartons is not yet in sight. And if the destination will be reached, buyers will have to finish the drive.
But sponsoring organizations and industry leaders say the PTI structure will remain in place at least for the near future, as compliance rates under 50% haven’t given the voluntary initiative enough momentum to coast home unassisted.
Even with the milestones past, the Produce Traceability Initiative structure isn’t likely to go away anytime soon, said Jane Proctor, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s vice president of policy and issue management.
“There is still clearly an appetite for the group to remain together,” she said.
Doug Grant PTI leadership council co-chairman Doug Grant, senior vice president and chief operations officer of Vancouver, British Columbia-based The Oppenheimer Group, also said he believes the organization will continue to operate.
“Until we reach a critical mass where it just becomes a common implementation for the industry, I could see it being around for a while yet,” Grant said.
The PTI timeline began with the goal of obtaining the company prefix the first quarter of 2009, with the last of the seven milestones reading and storing information on outbound cases by the end of 2012.
Waiting on buyer demands?
While the PTI’s buying working group hones its approach to handling case-labeling of produce cartons and the data behind it, industry estimates of supplier compliance with case labels is still under 50%.
Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain efficiencies at the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, said the number of cases labeled with PTI-compliant information was between 20% and 40% at the end of the year.
For Oppenheimer, Grant said about 30% to 40% of the company’s many growers are PTI-compliant.
“I think we are another year or maybe two until we are close to 100%,” he said.
Proctor said she believes some produce shippers are waiting on more aggressive implementation of PTI until the Food and Drug Administration releases its record-keeping rule, part of the Food Safety Modernization Act measures.
Treacy said PTI committees are confident the initiative will meet those requirements for high-risk commodities.
While some shippers are waiting, others are not, Proctor said.