The Produce Traceability Initiative: How Recycling Systems Can Keep Produce Processing Wash Water Costs Down

The Traceability Symposium in Los Angeles, coming up on November 9, 2010, will be an exciting step for the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), an industry-driven effort to address growing public concern about foodborne pathogens in produce. The PTI is endorsed by GS1 US, the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Produce Marketing Association, and United Fresh Produce Association.

 The Symposium will explore the need for industry change and discuss the specifics of PTI implementation. Speakers will include FDA Foodborne Outbreak Coordinator Sherri McGarry, PMA VP of Supply Chain Efficiencies Ed Treacy, and Growers Express President Jamie Strachan.

The PTI Action Plan establishes steps to traceability at the case-level by 2012, and the PTI website acts as a platform for industry discussion.

Capturing lost water during line dumps

One concern for produce processing facilities is the increased water costs that will result from the reduced lot sizes necessitated by the initiative. In order to isolate and identify smaller, individual runs, the cold water from each run will have to be dumped. American Water Purification, Inc. has devised an ozone/filtration system than can clean and disinfect water from one run to FDA/GRAS standards, then return it to the system for use in a different run.

Even during runs for the same lot, AWPI’s system returns 75 percent of used wash water to the front end of the process, rather than letting it go down the drain, which amounts to even greater savings.

“When produce processing facilities use this system in conjunction with our waste water treatment system,” says AWPI CEO Dan Gates, “the cost savings can be very significant.”

AWPI has also developed a direct contact ozone based produce rinse technology that can reduce rinse cycle times, creating even greater savings to offset the increased costs of implementing PTI practices.

“Ozone kills foodborne pathogens up to 3,000 times faster than chlorine,” says Gates, “which means our direct contact system could significantly reduce rinse times for produce–and effect a better kill.”

PTI Seeks Volunteers

Members from throughout the produce supply chain are invited to participate in working groups that will tackle specific issues in the enactment and facilitation of the initiative. Information is available at