Traceability may be all the rage in the produce industry now, but, in a large sense, it’s old news to Kwik Lok Corp., according to Hal Miller, vice president of sales with the Yakima, Wash.-based bag-closure specialist.

“It’s been in high gear in produce, really, for the last four or five years, but even before that, there was a lot of coding,” Miller said.

Kwik Lok tags — small plastic closure clips — feature codes that enable traceback to packing lines, fields and even individual products, Miller said.

“We can print almost any kind of code, from UPC codes to identify packers and what fields something came from,” he said. “If you want to assign a certain letter or code to a certain packer or a certain field, it can imprint right on the closure at the time they close the bag, and they do a lot of closing of product right in the field, like a lettuce field. So, our printers can fit on our bag-closing machine, and if they’re in a field, they can actually code-date that field. They would know exactly what lettuce came out of that field and with such and such a harvester — whatever code they assign those people.”

The system melds with PTI requirements, Miller said.

“A packer is doing lettuce in the field, and they’re packing for some name-brand lettuce company,” he said. “The harvester can sign himself the letters ‘DG.’ They can identify the field as a private grower. They can call it ‘DGA’ and Field No. 1. It would identify the packing crew, the harvesting crew, the field and the number assigned.”

By about December, Kwik Lok hopes to introduce a new printer to go on Kwik Lok machines for enhanced traceability of fresh produce, said Larry Leonard, regional sales manager.

“These new printers have cartridges instead of pouches for ink and are a lot more user-friendly,” Leonard said. “They’ll be able to print 2D bar codes on the locks themselves for all kinds of produce.”

Kwik Lok has ties to the produce industry dating back decades, but the company’s expertise always has been a good fit for fresh fruits and vegetables, Miller said.

“We’ve always had the capability and done ‘best before’ and that kind of thing for a long time,” he said. “But now, there’s just more and more emphasis placed on it and we have the same capability, only technology has enhanced that capability, because a lot of the software companies can make the software and the printer companies can make printing machines. They can download that information in the printers and do that on the closure label.”