The incidence of foodborne infections in the U.S. from Campylobacter, Salmonella, and other virulent pathogens increased sharply last year, creating a major public health problem, according to CDC. Among its many consequences is a growing strain on the ability of federal, state, and local government agencies to identify and mitigate potential food safety concerns.
Partly in response, FDA in April announced a “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” in which government and industry would cooperate to leverage advances in digital technologies such as blockchain to enhance product traceability; artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate food import inspections; and new packaging and transportation approaches to help modernize the food industry and meet the growing demands of e-commerce.
While the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has enhanced oversight of the nation’s food supply, “we recognize that it’s time to look to the future of food safety once again with a view that builds on the progress we’re making with our regulatory framework, but also leverages the use of new and emerging technologies to create a more digital, traceable, and safer system,” said acting FDA Commissioner Norman “Ned” Sharpless, MD, and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas in a recent joint statement.
Toward this end, FDA this year will hold a public meeting and gather stakeholder input on “smarter food safety.” The agency will also launch a pilot project using artificial intelligence to enhance its ability to review imports at ports of entry to ensure they meet U.S. food safety requirements. In addition, FDA will tap into its existing programs related to tracking the drug supply chain to see whether similar approaches might be adapted to tracking the nation’s food supply.
“When you look at how other industries digitally track the movement of planes, ride sharing, and delivery of packaged goods, it becomes clear that we must explore how these types of technologies could improve tracking when it comes to food,” Dr. Sharpless and Yiannas explained.
Pathogens on the Rise
The incidence of foodborne infections increased in 2018 compared to 2015-17, according to CDC’s latest Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) report, released in April. Surveillance from labs in 10 states confirmed more than 25,600 infections, nearly 5,900 hospitalizations, and 120 deaths that were caused by eight enteric pathogens commonly transmitted through food.| | | Next → | Single Page
About Ted Agres
Ted Agres is an award-winning writer who covers food safety regulatory and legislative issues from the nation’s capital in the Washington Report column. He has 40 years of experience in reporting on issues such as health policy, medical technology, and pharmaceutical development. He holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. He enjoys playing the piano, amateur radio, and paintball. He lives in Laurel, MD. Reach him at email@example.com.