Are you ready for the 2012 deadline of the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI)? This has been a topic of controversy in the food processing and agricultural industry for some time now. The PTI deadline is looming and I thought it would be a great topic for this month’s topic. There are just 11 months left to be in total compliance industry wide.
For those of you not familiar with the PTI, it is an effort to track produce from its point of origin to a retail location where it is purchased by consumers. It is an important component in protecting public health as it creates accessibility to health agencies to quickly and accurately identify the source of contaminated produce that is believe to be the source of a food borne illness outbreak and thus, remove that product from the marketplace. The PTI also allows grower, packers, processors and shippers/distributors to identify factors affecting delivery and quality therefore, a sort of cost saving tool and way to better forecast demand.
You may be thinking, “How is this controversial?”. Well, there is controversy because industry wide, this is a requirement mandated by law. The main outbreaks we see here in the United States are typically Salmonella and E. Coli, two illnesses that don’t affect watermelons and other produce unless cross contaminated by something such as a knife, etc. So unless that watermelon is being processed at another plant and not being sold whole and directly from the grower/packer/shipper to the consumer, should it be held to the regulation as well? That is a question being asked by many within the industry.
There are several systems in traceability available to the industry including radio frequency identification and barcodes to labels and other methods as well as a multitude of software programs to create the tracing. The cost varies depending on which program you decide to utilize.
Ultimately, my thought on the PTI is a positive one. I think it already has and will create more jobs locally, will allow anyone to verify if a product is truly local, will limit costs in the long run for our growers/packers/shippers and overall, will allow anyone in the world to see that a major chunk of the produce we eat comes from right here in the beautiful San Joaquin Valley. Maybe this will allow our government to give our hardworking farmers more water so we can produce and export more of the wonderful produce we grow!!!
If you would like more information on the PTI, I have included two links including a success story from Sun Valley Packing Co., in Reedley, CA.