WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., pushed for greater acceptance of the Produce Traceability Initiative Dec. 10 at a public meeting on traceability at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It also responded to concerns about cost of implementation and commingling.
“Why should we go about this with PTI?” rhetorically asked panelist Kathy Means, vice president of government relations for PMA, when giving her presentation at the two-day public meeting. “(PTI offers) common global standards … common information, common technology.”Means, while addressing federal agencies as well as food and traceability industry leaders in attendance, was careful to touch on the high cost of implementing PTI.
“There is no question that it is expensive to implement traceability,” she said, tying expense to a company’s level of sophistication and not its size. “If you don’t already have it, it is going to be expensive to put it in. However, the Produce Traceability Initiative is less expensive than other alternatives.”
She said there is a misperception that PTI consists of a “package” of computers, software and other aspects that can be made less expensive.
Means said companies are required to go digital anyway because of the FDA’s new online reportable food registry for problem reporting.
“There is a lot of fear out there about cost, and I would encourage people to go out and investigate the real cost for their company,” she said.
Responding to a question about commingling once cases are broken at the retail level, Means pointed to whole-chain traceability, the combination of external traceability (PTI) and internal traceability (a store’s own record-keeping).
“The retailer has records of what they brought into the store and what they put out there,” she said adding that RSS and item-level traceability labels are insufficient. “It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work for traceability because it skips all the links in between the producer and the consumer.”
Means said PMA will submit extensive written comments about traceability and food systems to the FDA by March 3.