Traceability still the hot topic

06/09/2009 11:07:24 AM
Tom Karst

I started to scoot the topic of the national fruit and vegetable promtion board to the top of the discussion threads over at the linkedin Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group, but the topic hasn’t attracted a lot of participation so far.

That could be because people don’t’ want to be “on the record” for this debate, or it could be that the idea of national mandatory generic promotion program has failed to capture the fancy of the industry.

In any case, I do find continued comments about traceability popping up on the board, and they are fascinating. (Again, you need to join the linkedin Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group, in addition to the Google Group of the same name.)

The traceability issue has attracted 10 comments since I posed several questions about the issue several weeks ago. Here are two recent comments about the issue:

This came from a  retailer:


I guess my concern is that the trackability/traceability/Food Safety issue will become wrapped inside the debate over the need for GTIN numbers. Everybody in the industry would probably agree that we need to insure traceability of product, and we should not sidetrack that discussion because of a cumbersome and expensive numbering system.

The current “Fresh Produce” environment in the U.S. seems to me to be vastly different than was the European environment when they first embraced GTINs (10 years ago?). With our current e-commerce capabilities as well as legacy databases, most trackability issues are easily and quickly resolved without the need for another cumbersome and very expensive license plate numbering system.

The GTIN may be “least important” but an $18,000 to $20,000 up-front charge for many growers is wildly out of proportion to any benefits, and cost then becomes the “most important” factor when considering whether to participate. Growers need to know how they will offset the cost, what is the ROI and what guarantee of business is associated with this very large expense.

And then what about the cost of internal administration, changes required to existing databases, turnaround time on new numbers, data pool costs, hardware costs due to the need to scan GTIN numbers, dock worker union contracts to renegotiate so they scan every box, etc? All these need to be taken into account when considering a change of such massive impact and such questionable return.

We have been using Itrade for over seven years and hundreds of thousands of transactions. Thousands of our item numbers are already cross-referenced with the internal numbers of most large growers across the country. We have had seven years of basically error free transactions due to any cross-referencing/data pool issues. I see no need to re-address this extremely time consuming and cumbersome process since it is already completed. We can pull a purchase file within seconds from either our mainframe or from Itrade, there is no slowdown due to cross referencing.

TK: A representative from GS1 answered some of the issues that were addressed in the retailer’s comments and I also invite representaties of United or PMA to join what is a lively and ongoing conversation.



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