On July 13, after several months of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Stephen Hahn, FDA’s commissioner, announced the agency’s much-anticipated New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint.” The plan, which builds upon foundations set down in FSMA, outlines the next steps in the process to ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illness through the use of science and risk-based standards, says Hahn.
Frank Yiannas, FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, says the blueprint outlines the work the agency plans to undertake over the next decade to modernize its food safety approach and “bend the curve” of foodborne illness.
“At the dawn of a new decade, we are in the midst of a food revolution; foods are being reformulated, new foods and new food production methods are being realized, and the food system continues to evolve,” says Yiannas. “To succeed in these modern times, we need more modern approaches.”
While the plan places strong emphasis on new technology, Hahn also stresses that the idea is to put in place more effective approaches and processes. The blueprint is centered around four core elements:
- Tech-enabled traceability. The plan’s first component focuses on new technologies and ways to integrate data streams to help identify outbreaks of foodborne illness and trace the origin of contaminated food to its source “in minutes, or even seconds.”
- Smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response. The FDA is looking at ways to use data. “The plans embraced by the blueprint include strengthening our procedures and protocols for conducting the root cause analyses that can identify how a food became contaminated and inform our understanding of how to help prevent that from happening again,” says Hahn.
- New business models and retail modernization. The FDA says it will investigate how to adapt its oversight to ensure that the new ways the food industry is inventing to produce and distribute food are safe. It will also work to ensure the safety of novel ingredients and new foods.
- Food safety culture. The plan emphasizes the importance of fostering and strengthening food safety culture on farms and in food facilities.