With new leadership from Wal-Mart"s Michael Agostini, produce buyers will have a bigger role in keeping the momentum for the Produce Traceability Initiative going.

A buyer-centered focus, fueled by a new Buyer Working Group, is needed to continue industry movement toward case-level traceability, according to a news release from the PTI Leadership Council. Agostini, senior director of produce for Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Bentonville, Ark., is the council"s new co-chairman. Cathy Green Burns resigned from the volunteer post because of increased work demands as president of Food Lion.

"PTI is clearly better off today than it was four years ago when we started, and that is due in no small part to Cathy"s leadership," Agostini said in the release. "We should celebrate our success as we have collectively moved our industry to embrace and understand traceability with 229 members participating in our working groups developing best practice and guidance documents in support of our milestones."

The PTI Leadership Council met recently at the Produce Marketing Association"s Fresh Summit in Anaheim, Calif., and decided to:

  • Create the Buyer Working Group to expedite the remaining retail/foodservice steps
  • Keep the PTI governance structure intact with the Leadership Council meeting twice a year and working groups used as needed
  • Maintain progress of supply-side PTI implementation and
  • Maintain industry education and communications via the PTI website.

Agostini is responsible for merchandising of key produce categories at Wal-Mart"s U.S. Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets, which total more than 3,000 stores nationwide, according to the release. He also leads Wal-Mart"s produce technology efforts. Agostini recently served on the PMA board of directors and was chairman of the PMA Supply Chain Efficiencies Committee, according to the release.

"The PTI milestones have been effective in guiding the industry step-by-step toward improved traceability and food safety," Doug Grant, co-chair of the Leadership Council and senior vice president and chief operations officer of Oppenheimer Group, said in the release. "Moving forward, we need to support the new Buyer Working Group so industry members can effectively identify the best strategies to keep the momentum going for the PTI we have built over the last four years."