WASHINGTON — An initiative aimed at developing new data communications standards to support the integrity of traceability and country-of-origin-labeling (COOL) information for fresh products has been launched by the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS), a division of the National Retail Federation here.
The ARTS Fresh Initiative endeavors to preserve the integrity of traceability information for a product such a cut of meat that may be reworked or rewrapped in the store. “It's a significant challenge to enact a recall [for fresh products], especially if the product is prepared in the store,” said Frank Urbaniak, consulting principal, C-Core Consulting Group, Sussex, N.J., who is a member of the initiative's work team. “That's why we need these standards. Messaging standards are what it's going to take for the data to remain consistent in every part of the food-preparation cycle.”
The standards would facilitate the communication of traceability data, including class, lot, country of origin and use-by-date, between store systems such as scales. “So if you rewrap a package, this would ensure the data went to the new package,” said Urbaniak. “Lot numbers assigned to individual packages could be recalled. Instead of pulling everything off, it could be item specific.”
Other data that will be encompassed by the new fresh standards include which equipment and/or people were involved in repackaging at the store, noted Richard Halter, chief technology architect for ARTS. That way, if ground sausage is recalled, cheese processed in the same grinding equipment could also be recalled, he said.
Halter explained that the GS1 DataBar, a new bar code that will hold additional information on fresh food packages sold at retail, will encode some of the traceability information in the ARTS initiative but not data such as equipment used in preparation or whether a fish is farm-bred. Retailers will have to capture and store the information not held in the DataBar, as well as the DataBar information.
The ARTS initiative will support such industry programs as the Produce Traceability Initiative and the Food Marketing Institute's Rapid Recall Exchange portal. “These all define processes but for them to work without data standards would be challenging,” said Urbaniak.
ARTS, known for its retail data model and data communication standards for in-store technology, is seeking retailers to participate in its Fresh Initiative, said Urbaniak.