May 2009: Case-Level and Item-Level Traceability-What You Need to Know
With the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) gaining steam, we thought it would be useful to clarify the distinction between case-level traceability (which is what PTI focuses on) and item-level traceability (also called sales unit traceability). HarvestMark provides both case-level solutions for PTI-compliance as well as item-level traceability solutions.
Case-level and item-level traceability achieve different ends, and have different roles in a robust food safety and traceability program. It's not a simple situation of picking either case-level or item-level-the answer may sometimes be 'both'.
CASE-LEVEL TRACEABILITY (PTI)
- Goal: every participant in the supply chain records each case they receive and ship (i.e. one-step-back, one-step-forward).
- Every case has a standardized label on showing the commodity/variety, packing configuration, and a date-specific lot number-with a GS1-128 barcode that encodes the GTIN and lot number using GS1 standards.
- A company obtains their Company Prefix from GS1 (www.gs1us.org). They can then use a vendor such as HarvestMark to design and deploy a PTI-compliance solution, or build a system themselves.
- A basic PTI label cannot be 'queried'-as there is no concept of a registry or central database. Solutions like HarvestMark extend the value of PTI by adding a case-level traceability code, and delivering traceability information on-demand via the Web.
- In the event of a recall, a case's source and route can be established by querying each participant in the supply chain-an exercise that can only be performed by an entity that has the necessary authority.
- In order to recall product, tracing-forward will allow the destinations of all affected cases to be determined.
- PTI does not currently apply to item labels and is therefore not consumer-facing (except for certain bulk club packs - like a 5 lb boxes of tomatoes).
- PTI applies to all case-level packs of fresh produce such as cases, bins, trays, bags, RPCs, etc.
- Goal: bring traceability to the individual sales package, allowing acces anywhere in the supply chain.
- Every package or label carries a traceability code that links directly to harvest, packing, and optionally shipping information.
- HarvestMark traceability codes can be entered at harvestmark.com to offer tailored traceability data and product profiles to consumers and retail/foodservice buyers.
- As part of a food safety investigation, every item can be instantly traced-back to the harvest/pack event, speeding recall response. This form of trace-back is effective even when the item is removed from the shipping case, or commingled with other products.
- The item-level code can provide a record of the route traveled by that item or it can be established through trace-forward once the source information is determined.
- Item-level is consumer-facing-a HarvestMark code provides the ability to communicate recall status directly to a consumer. In addition, it can communicate freshness, certified origin, maps, grower information, collect quality feedback, and so on.
- With HarvestMark the data that can be seen is strictly controlled by the shipper.
We realized that we could bring the advantages of item-level traceability to the case level. Our PTI-compliance solution prints case labels that not only meet all the specifications of PTI, but also include a case-specific HarvestMark code. Like our 300 million issued item-level codes, these case codes can be queried on the web or with a cell phone, to get instant, permissions-based data about the produce as well as immediate traceback to the source. See Fig 1 for an example of an actual PTI label with a HarvestMark code. To learn more about our unique PTI-compliance solutions, click here.
Applying PTI Labels to Field-Packed Cases-Analysis with the California Strawberry Commission
The Produce Traceability Initiative requires by Q3 2010 standardized, SKU- and date-specific labels on every case of fresh produce shipped in the US. For producers who pack in the field this means they must identify produce that is packed in multiple, disparate fields and multiple configurations with a label that needs to show information that may not be known until the day, or even moment, of harvest.
Together with the California Strawberry Commission, the HarvestMark team created a model and cost analysis to identify the best method available to field-packing producers to achieve PTI compliance. The model and analysis suggested that although preprinted labels present some challenges, they dramatically reduce technical complexity in the field. The least expensive non-preprinted solution for case labeling in the field suggested by the model is to print and apply labels to cases post-harvest at the cooler. However, at peak harvest when the cooler is bottlenecked, this could create unacceptable delays.
HarvestMark offers a suite of PTI-compliance solutions that help grower shippers get the right PTI label, on the right case, at the right time - whether they are field-packing or line-packing - and take care of your data storage and access requirements. We will also work with you to create your GTIN assignments and to determine the optimum labeling solution to fit your particular packing workflow, based on our expertise and continuing research.