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Walmart Is Blazing A Trail In Traceability Standards

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By Samantha Cortez

Contributing Writer, Food Online

Retail giant reinforces PTI efforts with mandatory labeling system

Once again, Walmart has taken steps to improve the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). On January 1, 2014 the retailer began refusing any produce arriving at its distribution centers without a proper case label that met its new PTI standard.

PTI is an industry-led effort to enhance traceability throughout the produce supply chain, and Walmart’s — a long-time supporter of the initiative — efforts are one step closer to full transparency. 

This transparency is vital to protecting overall public health, creating the ability to trace produce from origin to retailer. The initiative gives insight into every aspect of the produce’s journey, making it possible to identify possible sources of contamination or other factors that could affect quality or delivery.

Walmart’s PTI efforts began back in November of last year. Hoping suppliers would jump on board immediately, the retailer left a two-month window open to those who needed more time to move towards the implementation of new standards.

The retailer’s PTI solution gives electronic traceability for every piece of produce. Each item’s carton includes a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), lot and packing date, product type, product weight, description, and packer identification. “These efforts are designed to create transparency in the supply chain so our customers can be confident in the freshness of the produce they are bringing to their families,” a Walmart statement reads.

NiceLabel, a leading developer of barcode and RFID labeling software, is currently the only free online PTI labeling solution that allows suppliers to easily input data into a web form and produce a label that meets Walmart’s requirements. With the aid of NiceLabel, suppliers can seamlessly meet case labeling requirements and customize label designs catered to specific companies. NiceLabel automatically generates a Voice Pick code that give warehouses accurate traceability, without productivity or equipment cost impact.

In May of last year, PTI’s Leadership Council reported 22 to 50 percent of all produce cases at buyers’ distribution centers now have PTI labels. This number is without a doubt expected to increase during 2014 and beyond.

 Mike Agostini, senior director of produce for Walmart, says he expects the initiative to signal a domino effect, adding that it would “take a couple of biggies (large food retailers) to jump and the rest will follow.”

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