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Produce Traceability Initiative

The Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI) is an industry-led effort to enhance traceability throughout the entire produce supply chain. The Initiative’s sponsor associations include United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh), Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) and Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

Both internal and external traceability programs are needed in order to effectively track and trace product up and down the supply chain, achieving whole-chain traceability. At present, most companies have “internal” traceability programs, but not “external” traceability programs.

  • Internal Traceability = confidential or proprietary data and processes companies use within their own span of operations to track/trace product.
  • External Traceability = the data exchange and business processes that take place between trading partners to track/trace product.
  • Whole-Chain Traceability = Internal + External traceability.

The PTI uses a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) to achieve external traceability. A GTIN number includes a GS1 company prefix that can be readily incorporated into a UPC barcode and works with RFID or human readable codes. It also includes a unique item reference number. The “GTIN Assignment Strategy” has been created specifically for helping suppliers ensure consistency when assigning GTIN’s to the cases by using standard product attributes to organize and categorize products for GTIN assignment. Similarly, to ensure that one label can be used for the entire industry, a standard case label template has also been created as a result of the GTIN Produce Pilot conducted in the fall of 2006. The PTI Action Plan outlines the steps for achieving traceability at the case-level by 2012. For more information about the Produce Traceability Initiative, contact Dr. David Gombas, senior vice president food safety and technology.

Education and Industry Outreach

As a sponsoring organization, United Fresh is committed to helping industry members learn about and implement the Produce Traceability Initiative. Together, with our co-sponsors, we are in the process of creating a single website dedicated to the Produce Traceability Initiative.  We will also be sponsoring workshops at industry events, hosting webcasts, and providing online courses. Check back to learn more or call us now at 202-303-3400 and ask for Dr. David Gombas.


January 2008, the PTI Steering Committee, made up of representatives from more than 40 companies spanning a broad cross section of the produce supply chain including retailers, foodservice buyers and produce suppliers, began developing the Produce Traceability Initiative. Committee Chair Cathy Green, chief operating officer of Food Lion LLC, and the following companies served on the Steering Committee:

  • 7 foodservice buyers: Amerifresh, Applebee’s International, Markon Cooperative, Inc., McDonald’s, Pro*Act, Sysco Corporation, U.S. Foodservice;
  • 9 retail buyers: Food Lion, H-E-B, W. Newell & Co. (Supervalu), The Kroger Co., Loblaws, Safeway Stores, Inc., Schnuck Markets, Inc., Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Wegmans Food Markets; and
  • 17 produce suppliers: AEPQ (Quebec Apple Packers), B.C. Tree Fruits Limited, Ballantine Produce Co., Inc., C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., Dole Food Company, Inc., Domex Superfresh Growers, Driscoll’s, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Inc., Fresh Express, Inc., Fresh Innovations, LLC., Frontera Produce, Ltd., Naturipe Farms, LLC., The Oppenheimer Group, Pandol Brothers, Inc., Ready Pac Produce, River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC., and Tanimura & Antle.

The Steering Committee’s goal was to develop an action plan to help the industry implement a consistent, whole-chain traceability solution. This Action Plan was announced October 7, 2008. Cliff Notes from Produce Traceability Initiative Steering Committee:

United Fresh Produce Association
1901 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Tel: 202 303 3400
Fax: 202 303 3433