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  • Archive for April 2010

    Produce Traceability Initiative Update

    Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, PMA and United Fresh have just published results of an industry survey fielded in December, that benchmarked the status of PTI implementation and gathered input on issues, concerns, and needs for the PTI Steering Committee to consider. Can you tell us more about it?

    Bob:
    Julia, we received 263 responses from across the supply chain, with a majority of respondents hailing from the “sell” side – growers, packer/shippers and marketers. They told us that industry awareness of the PTI is very high (at over 80 percent), and three-quarters of them told us they have accessed the PTI Web site and all its tools and information. Seventy percent report they are planning to implement the PTI action plan, and more than half report they are on target to meet the milestones. We’ve posted a summary of the research on the PTI Web site on the “Resources & Tools” page.

    We also asked respondents to tell us what concerns and issues they are facing. No surprise, their top concern was cost – for example the cost of obtaining a company prefix, as well as hardware, software and other logistics expenses – and of course return on investment. They also noted a perceived lack of clear commitment across the supply chain— in other words, they don’t think their competitors or even their buyers will do their part. They also told us they are concerned about the uncertainty being introduced by pending government regulation, and some questioned the need for PTI above and beyond what they already have in place.

    As for what to take away from the survey, we clearly heard the industry’s need for “more” – more communication, more education, more transparency, and more chain-wide commitment.

    Julia:
    The PTI Steering Committee, under the leadership of Food Lion’s Cathy Green, met in February. Did they consider what the industry told us in this survey?

    Bob:
    Yes, the Steering Committee along with the administering associations heard the industry loud and clear.  The Steering Committee and the implementing associations are still committed to the goal of chainwide, electronic traceability – today’s status quo is not a long-term option.  That said, we are currently working on improvements on several fronts, including revamping the PTI governance. We’re looking at who’s involved to ensure we can effect real change and meet industry’s needs, as well as how often the governance group meets. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have deactivated the Steering Committee after releasing the action plan in August 2008 — there is clearly still a role for a strong, active governance group.

    Additionally, we’re considering how to improve the group’s transparency with the industry, and how our technical working groups can better meet industry’s needs for more information and tools. To help on that end, PMA has just hired Ed Treacy as our new vice president of supply chain efficiencies – Ed brings tremendous industry experience in logistics to this effort.

    Julia:
    I know we’re planning to have Ed on Ask Dr. Bob soon, our listeners can learn more about him then.

    Bob:
    That’s right, he’ll join us for a post soon.

    We’re also getting GS1 US more involved, their team brings a lot to the table, too. We will also be providing more communications and education, to ensure we’re providing the tools and information needed by industry to get this job done. For example, PMA, CPMA and United Fresh just met with industry association executives at United Fresh’s convention in Las Vegas, and that was a good dialogue.

    The PTI solution really is the optimal solution out there today, because it overlays each company’s internal traceability systems rather than trashing them and requiring a complete start-over. I know there is ROI to be had from it, too. Historically, many produce companies have used different electronic tracking formats to reduce shrink and better manage their inventories – and certainly we see the same possible advantages with PTI applications. Ideally, implementing the PTI should also help narrow the scope of recalls to just the affected lots, and not a company’s entire inventory – that has tremendous cost savings.

    Bottom line is, chainwide, electronic traceability must and will happen, and it is in our industry’s best interest to drive that train rather than be driven – or get run over. For those members who are waiting to find out what the federal government is going to do, keep this in mind about how legislation and regulation work: Congress and FDA will only tell us what to do – they won’t tell us specifically how to do it, that’s not how they work. So, in fact we already know that PTI implementation does not conflict with anything coming down the pike from Congress or FDA. 

    Julia:
    Thanks, Bob. So at this point, we want our members to know they are being heard, and improvements are coming including more opportunities to get involved – given how important this topic is, that’s news everyone can appreciate. In the meantime, PMA remains committed to helping the entire industry implement effective and workable chainwide, electronic traceability. As always, for more information check out all the resources on the PTI Web site at www.producetraceability.org.

    If you’d like to communicate with Dr. Bob, you can email him at AskDrBob@pma.com; you can also post comments about this and other Ask Dr. Bob posts on the blog Web site, at askdrbob.pma.com. Please send us your ideas for future blog posts, we look forward to that. Thanks for joining us this time, until next time, goodbye!

    CPS Update

    Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

    Julia Stewart:
    Hello, this is PMA PR Director Julia Stewart, and welcome back to PMA’s audio blog, “Ask Dr. Bob” with PMA’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker. Bob, it’s been a while since we’ve had an update on the Center for Produce Safety, so today you brought with you Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli, Executive Director of the CPS to talk with us.

    Bob:
    Julia, CPS has been a significant help in prioritizing research needs, creating partnerships to get the research done, and facilitating an open dialogue between researchers and business. Though only two and a half years old, the center is already generating real-world research answers to pressing industry food safety questions. Bonnie, can you give our listeners an update on what CPS has been up to lately?

    Bonnie:
    Thanks Bob. I’m pleased to say we’ve funded 24 research projects over the past 14 months, with a shared investment amounting to more than $3.8 million. A few of our most notable projects include looking at how pathogens move in field and processing environments, how we can do better co-manage food safety and the environment, and exploring mechanisms for mining some of the private data out there that may allow evaluation of pathogen trends. Your audience can find out more about all the specific projects on our Web site, www.cps.ucdavis.edu.

    Bob:
    This research is done in cooperation with research partners, some even in other parts of the world, right?

    Bonnie:
    Yes, that’s right, Bob. Our accomplishments are the result of our close work with what we call our ‘Partners in Research’, many of whom are U.S. state and national organizations. However, we view our role as a global one, and so we’re also forging relationships with researchers internationally. We currently have two projects with the U.S. Israel Bi-national Agriculture Research and Development program commonly referred to as BARD.

    Bob:
    Now, under its objective of facilitating dialogue, the CPS will hold its First Annual Research Symposium on June 23 at the Mondavi Center on the campus of UC Davis, where I’ll be the moderating the research discussions. Can you tell us more about that?

    Bonnie:
    This symposium is the CPS’s debutante ball, our coming out party – this is where we will publicly debut the results of the research we’ve been working on! This symposium is a forum for scientists to present the results of new food safety research funded by CPS and its partners. It will facilitate an open dialogue among attendees regarding the practical implications and applications of the research. And, it will share information about our mission, partnerships, ongoing research, funding, and our commitment to translating research into ready-to-use, actionable information. We’re expecting about 400 attendees from the United States and around the world.

    Bob:
    That going to be exciting! Our 2009 Fresh Summit attendees got a preview at a standing-room-only workshop you and I did with some of the researchers last October, and it was so well received. Now, is this symposium event strictly for scientists, or who else should attend?

    Bonnie:
    Well, the audience will include scientists as well as the entire produce supply chain from farm to retail – if you have a role in ensuring the safety of fresh produce, this event is relevant to you. During the symposium, researchers will briefly present findings, then an industry panel will talk about what the real-world implications and use of the information is – that dialogue will add tremendous value. The event will show how CPS is delivering on its mission to provide real-world research answers to the industry’s food safety problems.

    Bob:
    For more information on the symposium, our listeners can visit the center’s Web site. PMA is really proud to be a sponsor of this event.

    Bonnie:
    Bob, in addition to your involvement in this symposium, you’ve also been spearheading another significant area for CPS in drafting the RFP’s for our fifth call for research proposals.

    Bob:
    Yes, that’s right Bonnie. We’re working on continuing the valuable research effort that is beginning to bear fruit. Our next RFP will be announced on March 1. Proposals will be due April 30, and the awards will be announced in June. I expect we should have nearly $3 million in new research coming up.

    Julia:
    Thank you, Bob and Bonnie. It’s great to see how your hard work is already starting to yield results. PMA also want to extend a big thank you to our Gold Circle campaign contributors. Their support makes Bob’s work and PMA’s involvement with CPS possible. If any of our listeners want to find out how you can become a Gold Circle contributor, visit www.pma.com/goldcircle.

    Once again, you can find out more about CPS’s work on the industry’s behalf – including finding out how to register for the June 23 symposium - -by visiting CPS’s Web site at www.cps.ucdavis.edu.

    To our audience, thanks for your interest today. Please join us again next time!

     
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