Fleming stressed that even companies that haven’t gotten up to speed on the PTI milestones need to have some ability to trace their product one step up and one step back, since that was mandated in the 2002 bioterrorism act.
Many in the produce industry also lamented the potentially exorbitant costs of manadated traceability.
Tom Casas, vice president of information technology and mechanization for Salinas-based Tanimura & Antle, said when he first mentioned within his company that traceability was something it would have to invest in, the idea was met with denial, then anger, and finally acceptance.
“The cost doesn’t really hit hard until you need to put bar codes on every box,” he said. “(But) PTI will narrow the scope of recalls.”
In October, federal officials missed a self-imposed deadline for issuing a food traceability plan.
President Obama’s Food Safety Working Group promised on July 7 that the Food and Drug Administration would issue a draft proposal to the food industry on tracing systems within three months.
The Oct. 7 deadline came and went with no word on how long it would take for the traceability issue to be addressed.
Other traceability milestones earlier in 2009:
- In August, a sector-specific traceability implementation guide for fruits and vegetables was issued by GS1 U.S. and the Federation for Produce Standards.
GS1 U.S., Lawrenceville, N.J., and the United Kingdom-based International Federation for Produce Standards described the document as a guide to implement GS1 traceability standards in the fresh fruit and vegetable industry supply chain.
The document included key definitions and principles of traceability, combined with implementation guidelines for growers, packers, repackers, distributors, foodservice operators and retail stores.
- In July, The Packer hosted a Webcast exploring the many sides of the traceability puzzle. The Webcast was moderated by The Packer’s editor, Greg Johnson. A second one was in October.
Panelists agreed consumers today demand higher standards for food safety and traceability.
- Also in July, the White House announced tougher food safety plans, taking an active role in preventing foodborne illness outbreaks, targeting salmonella and E. coli, and allocating more resources for the effort, including development of new commodity-specific guidelines and better collaboration on investigations.
The first step for fresh produce in the new food safety agenda announced July 7: commodity-specific guidelines for leafy greens, tomatoes and melons.