Food Tracking & Tracing: Coming To a Supply Chain Near You (FSMA Update)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently unveiled a new pilot program studying tracking and tracing technologies for high-risk foods. The pilot is contemplated in Sec. 204 of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a legislative initiative aiming at reducing foodborne outbreaks and increasing the FDA’s ability to quickly identify and report outbreaks to the American public. In a post on the FDA’s Transparency Blog, Sherri McGarry, Senior Adviser, Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network Office of Foods at FDA, communicated her view of the importance of this pilot; “When a foodborne outbreak occurs, it is up to us, the FDA, and others, such as our industry partners, other government regulators to make sure that contaminated food products are no longer available. By quickly tracing the food product, we can help to minimize the risk to consumers.”
FDA has heard the proverbial call of tracking and tracing high-risk foods for years. But while FDA talked, many segments of the food supply chain advanced light years ahead of FDA from an IT/technology standpoint. FDA admits that, “It is clear that we cannot meet all of the deadlines in the statute. We are focusing first on those with the greatest public health benefit, such as preventive controls, inspection and compliance, and the import provisions.”
Here are some quick facts about FDA’s plans for the track and trace pilot:
-The Institute of Food Technologies (IFT) will run the pilot program as part of a $500k track & trace contract with FDA.
- The focus of this food tracing pilot will be on high-risk foods – specifically identified by FDA as tomatoes, frozen kung-pao dishes, and peanut butter.
- FDA expects the pilot to have run its course by this summer
- FDA does not plan to recommend technologies or software, thankfully
- FDA will open up a comment period after issuing its report and will hold 3 public meetings
Under the FSMA, FDA, in conjunction with USDA and other appropriate agencies, has been tasked with studying and developing an effective track and trace program for the singular goal of protecting the American consumer from foodborne outbreaks associated with high risk foods. This is new authority granted to FDA. Under the statute, FDA is supposed to focus on methods for tracking, technologies that will produce the appropriate data, the feasibility of the program (including the cost/benefit ratio for small businesses), and establishing the designation of high-risk foods. This proposed pilot will apply to both domestic and imported high-risk foods. What will be challenging, however, is the prospect of FDA creating a unified plan that’s both feasible and technologically cross-platform.
Will FDA be able to attain database nirvana by 2013? Read our part 2 blog here