Produce Traceability Initiative Steering Committee Creates Milestones for Traceability

For Immediate Release: April 30, 2008

At its third meeting held recently in Boston, the Steering Committee of the Produce Traceability Initiative reached consensus on the critical milestones needed to accomplish whole-chain traceability for the produce industry. The committee consists of over 40 leading companies from across the produce supply chain and is chaired by Cathy Green, chief operating officer of Food Lion.

“There was remarkable participation and collaboration that took place both in our meeting and in various subgroups to reach alignment on what is needed for whole-chain traceability,” said Green. “We’ve reached a vital step to help companies know what needs to be done to ensure the ability of this industry to quickly and efficiently track and trace product up and down the produce supply chain. We are now moving forward to develop timelines as part of an overall action plan for industry implementation.”

“We also look forward to getting feedback from the boards of the three associations that created the initiative – Produce Marketing Association (PMA), United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) and Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) – to ensure the support of their respective memberships,” said Green. “They will be the ones who ultimately will help drive our work forward.”

To educate their industry members and to solicit members’ input, all three associations will provide a summary version of the committee’s latest activities, as well as other resources being used by the initiative. Members will receive information on how to access these materials directly from their associations.

The Boston meeting was the third for the group. Since the steering committee’s prior meeting held in late February, members had been involved in subgroup discussions to reach consensus on two key items. One subgroup, focused on buyers in both retail and foodservice channels, developed a clear agreement on the need for commitment throughout the supply chain to apply Global Trade Item Numbers (GTINs), lot number and pack/harvest date to cases, and to have these used by buyers downstream. The other subgroup examined the potential for case serialization as an alternative to GTIN application, but decided against this option.

At the meeting in Boston, a new subgroup was appointed to work on standardizing the format and size of case labels that should be used to display the barcode and corresponding human-readable data. Both human-readable and bar-coded data elements are being recommended by the committee.

As part of their commitment to the work of the initiative, the boards of PMA, United Fresh and CPMA will be discussing the recommendations developed thus far during their respective meetings over the next several weeks. Support from the associations’ leaders and memberships will be essential in moving the work of the initiative forward.

Outreach to the broader industry will also take place during the education programming at the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and United Fresh conventions in Las Vegas, Nev., in early May. At that time, Green will also brief members of FMI’s Food Safety Task Force on the work of the initiative.

Association staffs have also been briefing regulatory authorities in both the United States and Canada on the work and direction of the initiative. Government representatives from both countries will be invited to attend the steering committee’s next meeting on June 12.

The following is a summary of key elements and milestones for implementing produce GTINs as developed by the committee thus far and for consideration by the association boards.

  1. Brand owners must obtain a GS1-issued company prefix.
  2. Brand owners must assign 14-digit GTINs to all case configurations. The steering committee highly recommends that companies use the number assignment strategy already created by the trade associations to minimize the number of GTINs created and to allow for consistency across industry segments.
  3. Brand owners must provide and maintain their GTIN information (and corresponding data) to their buyers.
  4. All parties must have the systems to capture and store GTINs and subsequent information.
  5. Those parties packing the product are responsible for providing the GTIN, lot number and pack/harvest date in a human-readable form on each case (Note: Pack/harvest date is optional if it is already embedded in the lot number).
  6. Those parties packing the product are responsible for encoding the GTIN, the lot number, and the pack/harvest date in a GS1-128 barcode. (Note as above: Pack/harvest date is optional if already embedded in the lot number).
  7. Each handler of the case must read and store the following information both one step up and one step down the supply chain: GTIN; lot number; pack/harvest date (If not already included in the lot number); shipper ID; shipper name; shipper address; receiver ID; receiver name; receiver address; date of shipment; date of receipt; quantity; unit of measure; and shipment ID.

The steering committee will meet next on June 12 in Chicago to identify timelines for implementation of each of the above milestones.

“Now that there is industry consensus on what needs to be done, the three sponsoring produce associations will also take on greater outreach to other fresh food trade associations to ensure compatibility and alignment,” Green said. “We want to make sure that this process will not cause unnecessary work for both the buying and selling community, whether sold in retail or foodservice, or required from suppliers in various fresh food sectors.”

About the Canadian Produce Marketing Association

Based in Ottawa, Ontario, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) is a not-for-profit organization representing over 770 Canadian and International member companies that are active in the marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables in Canada from the farm gate to the dinner plate. CPMA members represent all segments of the fresh produce industry. CPMA’s vision is to enable and lead the produce industry by enhancing the market and facilitating trade of fresh fruits and vegetables for its members. For more information about CPMA, please visit

About GS1 US

GS1 US, a member of GS1, is an information standards organization that brings industry communities together to solve supply-chain problems through the adoption and implementation of GS1 standards. More than 300,000 businesses in 25 industries rely on GS1 US for trading-partner collaboration and for maximizing the cost effectiveness, speed, visibility, security and sustainability of their business processes. They achieve these benefits through solutions based on GS1 global unique numbering and identification systems, bar codes, Electronic Product Code (EPC®)-based Radio Frequency Identification (RFID, data synchronization, and electronic information exchange. GS1 US also manages the United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC®).

About Produce Marketing Association (PMA)

Produce Marketing Association is the leading trade association representing companies from every segment of the global produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing business solutions that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption. For more information, visit

About United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh)

Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations. From its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and Western Regional office in Salinas, Calif., United Fresh and its members work year-round to make a difference for the produce industry by driving policies that increase consumption of fresh produce, shaping critical legislative and regulatory action, providing scientific and technical leadership in food safety, quality assurance, nutrition and health, and developing educational programs and business opportunities to assist member companies in growing successful businesses. For more information, visit

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