In its letter, Wal-Mart included examples of the labels the chain is requiring. Everything from the size of the label to the placement of information and the fonts and point sizes of type on the label are specified.
Treacy said the labels are identical to the industry standard for reusable plastic containers, which should make the requirement easier for suppliers.
“I was there when Loblaws, Safeway and Kroger developed the RPC label standards,” Treacy said. “They had been 2-by-10 inches and were required on two sides. Now with the new size they are less awkward and expensive and only have to be on one side.”
Treacy said his advice to Wal-Mart suppliers who are not yet using PTI-compliant labels is to start working on the transition “yesterday.”
“If people think they can wait until October because the deadline is Nov. 1, they are going to be surprised,” Treacy said. “It takes some time to get it right. Some suppliers are reporting it takes multiple tries to find a solution that works. It’s taking most people three to six months.”
Although the PTI-label requirement is only for Wal-Mart U.S. and Sam’s Club, those in the Canadian fresh produce industry are watching the situation closely.
Jane Proctor, vice president for policy and issue management for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, said current work in the Canadian government regarding food safety and traceability will likely lead to similar requirements for suppliers. She said the Wal-Mart announcement will encourage implementation north of the border.
“Implementation of traceability based on standards is crucial to assure (both) governments of the commitment industry has made to the safety of the food supply and ensure there are no trade disruptions as produce flows between our two countries,” Proctor said.