SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — If you’re a grower-shipper doing business with Publix Supermarkets Inc. or Food Lion LLC, you’ve already received word that those companies have implemented Produce Traceability Initiative milestones. And they’ve asked their supplies to do the same.
PTI is the combined effort of several major industry groups designed to facilitate traceback of perishable products.
The PTI Leadership Council set seven voluntary milestones ranging from securing a GS1 company prefix to full case-level traceback by the end of 2012.
Not many companies actually will implement all PTI milestones by New Year’s Day, but Todd Baggett, founder and chief executive officer of RedLine Solutions Inc., Santa Clara, and co-chair of the PTI Technology Working Group, expects many retailers to do so next year.
That’s why RedLine Solutions has hosted a series of seminars, including one in Santa Barbara Oct. 4, designed to spur suppliers to prepare for PTI.
Traceability is consumer driven, said Baggett, who recently suffered from salmonella himself.
He cited figures showing that, even though 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from foodborne illness each year, and 3,000 die (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 70% of the cases never are traced to their source.
Nearly 22% of foodborne illnesses are caused by produce. About 7% of those are related to growing, packing and handling, and 15% are on the post-farm side, Baggett said during the seminar.
“Traceability from the farm to retail/foodservice operator addresses the 2.9 million foodborne illnesses each year associated with growing, packing, processing and shipping,” he said.
Traceback programs not only help the Food and Drug Administration determine what product or company is responsible for an outbreak, but they can help determine what products or companies are not.
A major problem the industry faces is that current traceability solutions are non-existent, inconsistent, proprietary, incomplete, too cumbersome, manually intensive or just plain slow, said Gary Fleming, vice president, strategic services for RedLine and a lead architect of the PTI.
The longer it takes FDA to find the source of an outbreak, the longer the product is out of commerce, he said. And the more people get sick.
Sometimes, the product in question has made its way out of the supply chain before a source is determined.
“That hurts our industry,” Fleming said.
A standardized whole-chain traceability process ensures consistency, completeness, timeliness and accuracy, he said.
RedLine, established in 1997, provides traceability solutions that include RedLine Cooler, RedLine Field, RedLine Packing and PTI Lite, Baggett said.
“What makes these solutions unique is their ability to integrate or act as standalone solutions, depending on an operation’s needs,” he said.
The seminar ended with a demonstration of the company’s intuitive technology that Baggett said is specifically designed for workers that have little prior technology experience.
Plans are being finalized for additional seminars later this year.