In an effort to standardize and enhance produce tracking throughout the supply chain, leaders in the produce industry introduced the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), a framework of standards and best practices. Being PTI-complaint not only allows whole chain members to quickly pass on produce tracking information to consumers, but also to the FDA in the event of serious foodborne illness outbreak investigations.
With produce traceability technology, growers and distributors can operate more efficiently. They can track the origin of a product to determine if it is locally grown, and identify if it is defective or contaminated. The accuracy produce tracking offers allows businesses to establish trust with consumers and work with the FDA more effectively to protect the health and safety of the public.
Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and barcodes are the typical technologies used for produce tracking. RFID tags play a critical role thanks to their code-carrying capabilities, which, unlike barcodes, can be read without a direct line of sight. Certain limitations of this technology, however, prevent it from widespread use, such as its overall cost and readability.
RFID tags and the technology used to read them are simply too expensive to be used for item-level tagging in the produce industry. While they can be read without a direct line of sight, their readability highly depends on the density and orientation of the package. Items that are wrapped in too many layers of material or have shifted in their packaging are less likely to have their RFID tag read correctly. Water, which is a common element necessary for preserving the freshness of produce, can also interfere with RFID tag scanning.
A more commonly used method for produce tracking is barcodes. Because they are more cost-effective than RFID tags, barcodes can be placed on an item-level and case-level. Their format can also be adjusted to coincide with specific packages and labels, and they are generally reliable for securing data. Nowadays, buyers can easily scan QR codes on produce labels to retrieve information on a product. This helps build trust between the industry and consumers, and also helps speed up the turnaround time on product recalls during FDA investigations.
Many software systems exist in today's market for managing traceability throughout the entirety of the supply chain. However, a large majority of these rely on a combination of software modules and plugins to capture information from different stages in the supply chain, such as farming, processing, packaging and distribution. Additionally, not all of these systems are able to seamlessly integrate with the platforms used by grocery retailers to capture data from products.
The best option for growers and distributers looking to modernize and reinforce PTI standards in the produce industry is to leverage new developments in technology and partner with certified professional software development experts to enable accurate access to a product's origin and journey throughout the supply network.
Chetu, Inc. does not affect the opinion of this article. Any mention of specific names for software, companies or individuals does not constitute an endorsement from either party unless otherwise specified. All case studies and blogs are written with the full cooperation, knowledge and participation of the individuals mentioned. This blog should not be construed as legal advice.
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