Our Newsletter:
Traceability Insider

August 2014
How Digitization is About to Change the Rules of Your Business

June 2014
Food Waste, We are Fed Up, and a Gladson Case Study

May 2014
Ag Tech and the Power of Catchy Criticism

March 2014
Labels are Soooo 1990, “Thorny” food labeling law

January 2014
Oxymoronic Grocery Predictions and Big Data for the Produce Industry

December 2013
The Gift of Growing – Helping Kids Get Their Hands Dirty!

November 2013
Produce Brand Strategy, Visibility and Transparency

September 2013
A "Lean" Supply Chain, Knowing your Shopper

April 2013
Food Waste, The Rolling Stones, Raley's, and Tanimura & Antle

March 2013
First Look! FDA Releases IFT Traceability Report and Lessons from Europe's Horsemeat Crisis Every Fresh Food Brand Should Learn

January 2013
What Does the Future Hold?

September 2012
"Locale" Produce and Reducing the Impact of Recalls

January 2012
Making the Case for Traceability

September 2011
GTINs – the Devil Is in the Details

August 2011
Turbocharge Mobile Marketing with HarvestMark and QR Codes

May 2011
Traceability Insider

January 2011
It's a New Year. What's the latest on PTI?

May 2010
HarvestMark Makes its VoiceCode™ Solution Open Source

December 2009
IFT Publishes Traceability Report for FDA

Holiday Issue 2009
What Happened at the FDA/USDA Hearing on Food Traceability

September 2009
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

August 2009
How to Avoid Synching Without Trace

July 2009
What's the Value of PTI?

May 2009
Case-Level and Item-Level Traceability-What You Need to Know

April 2009
Still Have Questions about PTI? Don't Worry, You're Not Alone

March 2009
PTI, GS1, GTIN, GLN? HarvestMark's Got the FAQs

January 2009
The First PTI Milestone is Around the Corner

December 2008
A Pivotal Year for Food Safety

November 2008
FDA Solicits Public Comment on Enhanced Produce Traceability

October 2008
Produce Traceability Initiative Action Plan Released

September 2008
How Will Greater Transparency Enhance Your Business?

Español - 01 2012
Elaborando el Caso para Trazabilidad

Español - 03 2012
La Más Reciente Norma de la FDA es Efectiva Inmediatamente. ¿Debería Usted Estar Preocupado?

August 2013
How Walmart Could Implement PTI, Crowdsourced Shopper Insights

June 2010
How to Interpret the PTI announcement of "Goal Unchanged, Milestones Adjusted"

December 2010
An Update on the PTI

July 2010
Produce Traceability in Foodservice

February 2010
What's Going on with the PTI

March 2010
Consumer Attitudes to Traceability

August 2010
HarvestMark Launches Consumer Campaign in Portland, OR

March 2011
Have you heard of the PLU DataBar Initiative?

November 2011
Traceability? There’s an App for That

December 2012
It’s all new. Introducing HarvestMark 2013.

March 2012
The FDA's Latest Ruling is Effective Immediately. Should You be Worried?

June 2012
Do QR Codes REALLY Drive Shopper Engagement?

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March 2011: Have you heard of the PLU DataBar Initiative?


To increase accuracy and speed at checkout, some retailers have begun to request an addition to PLU labels found on produce. It's called the DataBar, but has also been referred to as item-level GTINs, stacked barcodes, the new PLU label, or RSS Limited Barcode. It's no wonder there's some confusion! Let's clear it up.

The PLU label is the small sticker that carries the 4 or 5 digit Price Lookup Code that is keyed in at the register to identify a product. Some retailers are asking suppliers to ensure they have a barcode on each PLU label that can be automatically scanned at the register in addition to the Price Lookup Code. Here's the good news: If you currently have a UPC code on each item or bag - no worries, you're covered. For those suppliers with labels too small to fit a UPC (such as those found on apples or citrus) the barcode solution you'll need is called a GS1 DataBar Stacked, or simply stacked barcode. It looks like this:

DataBar Label

The barcode contains a 14-digit code, which is also called an item-level GTIN. This is NOT the same as the 14-digit GTIN used for PTI compliance on the case.

The difference is: the GTIN on the PLU label should always start with a "0" to identify it as an item code, whereas a GTIN on a case label starts with a number between 1 and 8 identifying it as a case or master case code. Both types of GTIN should contain the brand owner's GS1 Company Prefix. (If you've been using the PMA-assigned '33383' Company Prefix, you are encouraged to purchase your own company prefix, which is a part of the PTI and Databar compliance.)

If you currently use PLU stickers and think you might be a candidate for DataBar, here are 6 things you need to know:

Tomato Label1. Find out if your retail customers are requiring/allowing customer-specific DataBar barcodes. Kroger is, for example.

2. Get your GS1 Company Prefix - if you don't already have one.

3. Assign your case and item-level GTINs. We have a simple, free Excel tool to help you do this - contact us if you'd like it.

4. Next you'll need to synchronize your GTINs with your retailers. The PMA has created an online tool, called Databar Online, which you can use to upload your GTINs. Retailers also log into this database to download their suppliers' GTINs. You can learn about accessing PMA's DataBar online here.

5. Upload your item-level GTINs to the PMA Databar Online database.

6. Work with your label printer to redesign your labels to include the DataBar. (The standard for readability is ISO/IEC 24724:2006). You'll still need to put the PLU Code and Country of Origin on the label. (Yep, it'll be really small!)

Need help with GTINs? Contact us at 650.264.6200.

Important Decisions Have Been Made by the PTI Steering Committee - Here's What They Mean for You

The PTI Steering Committee recently decided on two key issues that affect the way the Initiative will be implemented: commodity/base-level GTINs will not be accepted, and field-packed cases do not need to have date-specific lot numbers. As always, the Traceability Insider will share our opinion on how this affects you.

Commodity GTINs Are Not PTI Compliant
The commodity GTIN consolidates multiple packing configurations for a single commodity (e.g., ACME Farms 8 x 2 lb. bags of Green Grapes, ACME Farms 16 x 1 lb. clams of Green Grapes, etc.) into a single GTIN (ACME Farms Green Grapes). This would simplify the GTIN list management without reducing recall effectiveness (after all, a recall is not determined by a packing configuration - but rather by the lot/date). Those in favor of allowing commodity GTINs reiterated that they enable traceability, the key objective of PTI. The primary argument against was the added complexity for retailers to maintain a parallel system of SKUs for every GTIN, as a commodity GTIN could not be used alone to receive a load. In the end, the nay's prevailed (all retailers voted against it, as did a majority of shippers).

For shippers with a modest number of GTINs (e.g., <100), this is inconsequential. For shippers who line pack and have a very large number of GTINs (e.g., citrus, stone fruit), this means their printing system will have to be able to determine the packing configuration of each case as it passes the label or print head. The HarvestMark team has already deployed this type of system in a packhouse. The configuration determines the drop a case was filled on, looks up the packing configuration for that drop, and prints the appropriate GTIN - at full speed on a line with mixed cases.

You will still have to buy a company prefix - remember that GS1 allows shippers to use packaging level 1 through 8 - so if you have <800 GTINs, you only need a single company prefix for 100 items.

Want to learn more about in-line PTI? Contact us here.

Field-Packed Cases
The original PTI best practices stipulated that a lot number must be specific to a particular day. Many field-packing producers argued that this was unnecessarily precise: in a recall, an entire block or ranch would be plowed under - not a single day's harvest. This pragmatic approach prevailed, and now the best practices will allow field-packed lot numbers to span more than one day if the shipper is willing to accept the increased scope of a recall.

The consequence of this decision is that a field-packing shipper can now print labels in advance, and not worry about over-printing. This both potentially eliminates the need to put equipment in the field, and makes managing multiple GTINs easier. The HarvestMark team was an early advocate of this approach, and has deployed these preprinted PTI solutions successfully. Retailers who require visible date coding can still be served with a date label or ink stamp applied to the case. We have solutions that use non-date-specific labels, yet still capture sub-lot-level information, such as date, crew, block, variety, and so on. 

Contact us to find out how we can deliver the best PTI solution for your business, without pushing a lot of unnecessary equipment into your fields.