Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, says that the first 100 days since the FDA released its blueprint for the “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” has been a success.
In a webinar that took place on Oct. 26, Yiannas joined with other FDA leaders to discuss the highlights of the program so far, including advancements and achievements made in food safety and leveraging technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. “Smarter food safety is people led. It requires smart, innovative people and increasingly technology enabled,” Yiannas said. “This has proven to be a collaborative, action-oriented blueprint.”
Speakers discussed the work done by FDA team members on the four core elements of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint—tech-enabled traceability, smarter approaches to prevention and outbreak response, new business model and retail modernization, and food safety culture.
“The lessons we learned in the months following the pandemic accelerated the needs for many of these goals,” Yiannas said. “For example, we learned enhanced real-time traceability could provide greater supply chain traceability that could help FDA and the industry to anticipate the types of market checks and balances that we saw during the pandemic.”
Another example is that, during the pandemic, FDA started remote inspections. The pandemic also shined a light on other aspects of the food safety culture, and this helped FDA make its blueprint a reality. “There won’t be a New Era without the commitment and involvement of invaluable partnership of government agencies, industry associations, academic institutions, and consumer advocates,” Yiannas said.
Kari Irvin, deputy director of the Office of Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), spoke about establishing a tech-enabled traceability system that would create a harmonized system of traceability from farm to fork. She talked about how this new data will help shape the current investigational tools, especially when applied to food outbreaks and identifying causes.
“The first 100 days has been really eventful for us; we were pleased to launch the Leafy Greens Tracing pilot, where we were able to partner with the leafy green industry to create scenarios for testing methods to collect and report traceability data,” Irvin said.
Additionally, in August, an independent response outbreak process review was initiated to seek input from consumer groups, academia, government agencies and industry to open a dialogue on FDA’s current outbreak response process, with a particular focus on traceability.
Next up was Mark Moorman, director of the office of food safety, who spoke about the Core 2 segment of smarter tools and approaches, and emphasized the importance of information sharing, both within industry and government, to learn from adverse effects. He also noted how data analysis will help predict future outbreaks.
Andreas Keller, FDA’s director of multi-commodity foods in the office of food safety, examined the new business models and retail modernization, and spoke on FDA’s recent efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of retail food regulatory programs. Conrad Choiniere, director of the office of analytics and outreach, addressed food safety culture, noteing that FDA’s role is to study the issues and provide advice so that those in the industry can develop their own food safety cultures tailored to their specific needs.
Looking at the road ahead for 2021 and 2022, Irvin said that a key FDA goal is to finalize the food traceability rule.
Additionally, FDA looks to implement the following:
- Build a platform to rapidly receive electronic tractability data;
- Initiate discussions with domestic and internationals stakeholders related to integrating traceability efforts;
- Expand traceability pilot activities beyond leafy greens;
- Make changes to digital trace back requests; and
- Encourage the development of simple, low-cost solutions to promote tech-enabled traceability and to meet the requirements of the FSMA Food Traceability Rule when finalized.