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Dominoes of Sustainability Compliance

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club were the first in what many hope to be a string of organizations to adopt the Produce Traceability Initiative’s (PTI) standardized case label to ensure consumer confidence in food safety and traceability. The PTI is a voluntary collection of organizations throughout the food industry which optimizes the track and trace procedures on fresh produce all the way back through the supply chain. The food and beverage segment is largely in favor of industry-wide adoption of PTI standards.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also supports the PTI efforts, noting that voluntary industry efforts allow the government to build on the progress being made, not impede it. Initiatives that are currently allowed to develop without FDA interference, such as produce traceability, require consumer and industry leader collaboration to stimulate progress. When industry leaders market these efforts to their consumers, the domino effect begins and competitors follow suit. These marketing efforts also provoke consumer curiosity about food sourcing, encourage their involvement and ultimately raise their expectations of other companies from which they purchase goods. Katie Pratt of the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance spoke to the Wall Street Journal encouraging consumers to reach out and connect with those that grow our produce. She encouraged the use of social media to interact with farmers, but this made me wonder – how do we, as consumers, reach back through the tangled supply chain to get a hold of the hands that cultivate our food?  Software, with all variety of intricacy, is available to aid organizations in connecting with their food providers and growers. These technologies also take that information into a communal marketing space that is readily available to curious consumers. Some examples of these software products are SAP Traceability and FoodLogiQ’s Traceability and Grower Relationship Management (GRM) solutions. PTI adoption and other instances of voluntary traceability efforts are important examples of leadership that should be commended. Traceability in the food and beverage industry directly ties in to short, medium, and long term benefits, as leaders can identify inefficiencies, risk areas of contamination or unethical sourcing, and raw material price and availability forecasting. The push for traceability has started but relies on consumers to push the balance in favor of more real-time information. How will your company partner with consumers to participate in the future of produce sustainability?