The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) officially launched its new Global Food Traceability Center with a press conference on September 11 that featured representatives from four of the main stakeholder groups that will be involved in the center: Government, industry, consumers, and the international sphere.
“Until now, there has been no single public or private entity that brings together key stakeholders in the food system to join forces on product tracing,” says William Fisher, IFT vice president of science and policy initiatives. “Our vision is to become the global resource and authoritative voice on food tracing.”
The Center grows out of three traceability research summits held by the IFT in 2011. Its founding sponsors include Cargill, the Food Marketing Institute, GS1 US, International Association for Food Protection, Intertek Group, Lyngsoe Systems, Mars Inc., National Fisheries Institute, Produce Marketing Association, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and the University of Guelph.
Fisher says that the Center will focus on four primary areas of activity: Research, education and training, standards, and technology. “The Center will use a collaborative approach for its work. It will develop science-based, public-private partnerships that can share in the costs and benefits and offer specific assistance and expertise.”
The Center’s three initial projects will include a food traceability best practices guidance document for regulatory agencies, a benchmark report on existing international food traceability standards and regulations for major trading nations with observation on gaps and duplications, and courses on food traceability systems and solutions.
Fisher notes that while public health concerns are demanding traceability, it will be the business and economic drivers that will sustain it.
“FDA, as we come to the table, will be focusing on the public health benefits, but we also need to be cognizant of the feasibility and practicality of establishing a more uniform product tracing system domestically and internationally,” agrees Sherri McGarry, senior advisor, office of foods, U.S. FDA. “It’s really an exchange of ideas and using this global perspective as we find the tools that are going to help us improve tracing, to make it more rapid, to make it more precise.”
William Fisher, IFT Vice President of Science and Policy Initiatives; Sherri McGarry, Senior Advisor, Office of Foods, U.S. FDA; Janet Collins-IFT President (at the podium); Jack Sinclair, Executive Vice President of the Grocery Division at Walmart; Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of the Food Safety Program at the Center for Science in the Public Interest; and Artavazd Hakobyan, Food Safety Technical Lead with the Global Food Safety Partnership at the World Bank.