More from the Dec. 10 USDA-FDA hearing on traceability. Below is a question and answer session that includes some references to the cost of the Produce Traceability Initiative.
DR. SUNDLOF: Okay. We have questions from the audience, and the first one goes to Kathy Means. How have you involved consumers in the PTI process -I can't read this word -it has evolution in there someplace.
MS. MEANS: Okay. The PTI process is an industry process. It addresses items at the case level, not at the consumer level. So it wasn't envisioned to be something that involved consumers. They would not ever actually see the PTI barcode because that will happen on the case level.
DR. SUNDLOF: Okay. And then a second question to you, Kathy. Commingling can occur at the retail level. How do you suggest that be handled?
MS. MEANS: Once you get to the retail level and the boxes have been opened and it goes out onto the store shelves, it's again the same issue, that you're not going to know exactly what's in that bin from the consumer level.
However, the retailer has records of what they have brought into the store and what they're putting out there. So imagine you have a bin of apples, and some are from Australia and some are from New Zealand and some are from the United States.
The retailer's going to have records of what they're selling. Obviously they want to charge the right price for the product that's out there. They want to know about their inventory control.
There are a whole lot of reasons besides traceability that they want to know the products that they have on the store shelves at any given time. So they would use their internal records to understand what was being sold at a particular time, and those external records, the PTI, would link it back then through the supply chain.
DR. SUNDLOF: Thank you. This question is for Richard Matoian. What are some of the specific lessons learned in the recent pistachio traceforward recall with respect to full chain traceability? And there's two sub-questions here also. What worked well? And what areas can be improved?
MR. MATOIAN: I think the first thing that we learned was that we can't rest on our laurels. The fact that we developed GAPs and GMPs back in 2000 were not enough.
We need, and the industry's now in the process where it's going to continually look at and revise its food safety standards and develop better mechanisms on a continual basis. In particular, regarding traceability, have better mechanisms in place, and that's why we're undergoing these studies right now, so that we can look at and determine a better system in place because one of the things we did learn was while the processor was able to quickly identify who he sold the product to, down the chain of command, as that product went to rebaggers, and then it was sold to other people who rebagged and then others who rebagged, is it started to really lose its identity. So we're going to need to develop a better system as a product moves down the chain.
DR. SUNDLOF: Thank you. This one is for Doug Bailey. How is the mpXML system being received? Is it popular? Do you have expectations to expand? And what are the costs?