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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December 2009: IFT Publishes Traceability Report for FDA


The IFT recently published a report on food traceability systems, commissioned by the FDA. We have deployed PTI solutions at multiple customers, so we wanted to understand what the 200 page report had to say that may influence future features that we need to support. In general, the report was aligned with PTI:

  • Electronic recordkeeping is a must-have. In the event of a recall, the FDA needs the ability to rapidly retrieve detailed records of product movement and transformation.
  • A single, Government-run database of all trace transactions is implicitly rejected. Instead, each participant in the supply chain is responsible for capturing in electronic format their product movements and transformations (or using a third party), and submitting them to the FDA only in the event of a recall.
  • A standardized, global nomenclature for key data elements (such as product name, lot number, date, locations) is required.
  • A company's ability to trace and record in accordance with these guidelines should be part of a third-party audit.

However, it's also important to recognize what the report did not say, particularly with respect to PTI. The report did not evaluate, modify or endorse PTI. There are many commonalities with PTI, but there are also differences in the detail of the report:

  • The medium and content for case-level identification was left open. Although the report specifies that a lot number and manufacturing facility should appear on the case - it was not clear whether product name also needed to be on the case, nor whether it should be in a barcode (pg. 111, para. 3 "The medium used to convey lot information, production date, and location of manufacture is relatively unimportant and independent of the system used (e.g. barcode, RFIDs, electronic, or pen and paper)". This is surprising in our opinion, given the possible need for scanning cases, for example when rebuilding pallets or picking.
  • The format of the Lot Number was not specified. Whereas in the PTI guidelines, the lot number must be 'date specific', the IFT report leaves the specificity to the grower/packer/shipper based on a pragmatic evaluation of risk and economics. We think this makes a lot of sense.
  • A logical choice for data nomenclature would be GS1 - but although the report did not specifically recommend it, it was heavily hinted at throughout. The report was not prescriptive about the product naming specificity.

In sum, the report generally supports the direction and methodology of the PTI, but there are some suggestions from the IFT that could be addressed by the PTI - such as lot number and product specificity. The ambiguity around case labeling in the report should be clarified, as this is where the rubber hits the road for produce shippers implementing PTI this year.

Finally, the report cited surveys that showed strong interest from consumers in item-level traceability and the FDA was interested in methods that enhanced consumer confidence during and after a recall. In spite of this, the report's authors acknowledged that their methodology would not achieve these "because the recommendations propose tracking at the case level and not the item level, there would not be any additional information on the package that would enable consumers to know where their food came from." As we have discussed in previous editions of the Traceability Insider, item-level traceability remains the only way to engage consumers and enhance consumer trust, and is a complement to case-level traceability.

Bottom line: IFT agrees with PTI that electronic 'whole chain' traceability is the future for the produce industry. The good news is that the HarvestMark PTI solution meets the requirements laid out in the IFT report, and is designed to easily accommodate future enhancements.