Mandatory should not be a four-letter word

08/30/2012 02:59:00 PM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstWhy aren’t more things in life mandatory?

Okay, there is a fair amount of dread in any thing that must be done, and April 15 is the prime example in that regard since we can’t dwell on the uncertain day of our demise with any heartfelt conviction.

At the same time, mandatory duties are somewhat freeing. There is no doubt or decision whether or not the task must be done. So it is done.

For that reason, I think traceability should be mandatory for fresh produce marketers. As is my custom, I created a poll on the issue in the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group and found no objections to the premise.

The question: “Considering continued issues with traceback investigations, should case level traceability be mandatory for all fresh produce marketers?”

So far, there are no arguments in the discussion thread against mandatory traceability.

Supporters say case level traceability will result in less waste, lower insurance costs, instant visibility, better quality food, brand protection, and more.

One commenter said that traceback investigations require inventory control, suggesting the industry is playing a “joke on the world” without at least case-level traceability. Another said consumers should demand traceability from farm to fork.

While those who market traceability solutions will of course be in favor of “must-do” traceability, it is time for the whole industry to embrace the notion.

For example, if every produce marketer were required to have case-level traceability by a date certain, then it would take some of the drama out of the question of industry progress toward the milestones of the Produce Traceability Initiative. How are we doing? Still not good enough, survey says.

Of course traceability is now framed as a voluntary industry initiative, so the concept of it would have to be retooled.

If traceability is considered a “voluntary” if inevitable initiative, at least most produce professionals agree that safe produce growing and handling practices should be standard operating procedure.

But of course this is also not the case.

I observed the distress caused by the foodborne illness outbreak attributed to southwest Indiana cantaloupes among other produce marketers.

When I spoke last week with Hank Giclas, senior vice president for science, technology and strategic planning for Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, he mentioned frustration among Western melon producers about inconsistent expectations from receivers.


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Alvaro Ramirez    
San Francisco, CA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM

Tom, PTI should be mandatory. I am thinking thought the only way to make it mandatory now is for buyers to tell growers they will not buy their products unless they are PTI compliant. That creates an animosity between market players. Government has the authority to make it mandatory. It would and should be made mandatory to everyone marketing directly or indirectly to consumers. The problem is the technology is not priced for everyone. I am going to solve that problem - stay tuned.

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