Today, in Atlanta, is the first meeting of the trade’s traceability initiative.
It is a milestone for the industry and one The Pundit has been dedicated to preparing the ground work for, for a very long time:
- We started out by asking Gary Fleming, Vice President of Industry Technology and Standards of the Produce Marketing Association, for his insight into this crucial area. First, in Guest Pundit — Traceability And the Need For A Common Language, Gary explained the vital role that data standards play in any industry-wide effort to begin a trace-back and trace-forward capability. Then, in Guest Pundit — Pairing The Global Language With Technology, Gary explained how we could actually implement such a vital strategy. Following this, we produced an article entitled, Guest Pundit: Traceability — A Forgotten Piece of Food Safety, in which Gary, who had gone to Argentina in search of an effective traceability solution, explained what he found.
- Bruce Peterson resigned from Wal-Mart and people wondered what his next step would be. Then a press release was issued, pointing out that he had entered into a “partnership” with Michael McCartney, Principal of QLM Consulting, to promote a traceability initiative for the fresh produce trade. We spoke to Bruce to see what his plans were. That piece, Bruce Peterson Focuses On Traceability, explained Bruce’s main point that the produce industry is more likely to reduce the negative impact of food safety outbreaks by enhancing traceability than through any other measure.
- We also reached out to Michael McCartney, and he explained his role in the Peterson/McCartney Initiative; we published that piece under the title, Getting A Better Grasp On Traceability.
- Jane Proctor, Director of Industry Technology and Standardization for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, then sent a note which we included in a piece entitled, Pundit’s Mailbag — CPMA & PMA To Lead Industry Closer To Global Traceability. This piece featured new data from a study on traceability.
- Traceability Falls Short at Distributor Level was written in response to the high cost of recalls, as it became clear that small amounts of doubtful products were requiring distributors to conduct large recalls. We also ran Pundit’s Mailbag — When It Comes To Traceability, We Have The Technology, which included key letters from both Alan Siger of Consumers Produce Co., Inc. of Pittsburgh and Scott Danner of Liberty Fruit Co., Inc., pointing out that technology and business systems already exist to have strong traceability at the distributor level.
- PMA, CPMA And United Form Traceability Initiative focused on a rare joint announcement by the North American trade associations to jointly conduct a traceability initiative. We then published Traceability Initiative Lacks Full Industry Representation, urging that the makeup of the steering committee be expanded to include wholesale/distributor companies.
The Steering Committee was ultimately expanded to include all facets of the trade, and the group meeting in Atlanta is a powerhouse of industry professionals.
That doesn’t mean their task will be easy. We have a fractured and diverse business, and assuring traceability will not be easy.
It is, however, important. Until the industry can assure regulators and the public that food safety outbreaks can be identified and contained, there will be no solution to the trade’s food safety problems.
So those meeting in Atlanta do serve us all. Let us wish them God speed in their deliberations. Much depends on their sagacity.