Among the many powers granted to the FDA under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the “authority to order a recall of food.” It can also “suspend,” “detain,” or otherwise disrupt product distribution if it suspects the public is at risk. And European Union (EU) Directive 178/2002 is no less restrictive.
While FSMA and EU directives represent a major shift by the regulators to move from response to prevention, the reality is that contamination does occur. As of this writing, contaminated sausage has been linked to an outbreak of listeriosis that killed 12 people in Denmark. This provides yet another stark reminder that prevention is critical, as peoples’ lives depend on proper response. The solution lies in effective tracking and traceability.
Piloting Track and Trace
In 2011, the FDA tasked the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to execute product tracing pilots in collaboration with the USDA, state departments of agriculture, and nearly 100 other organizations. This led to two pilots intended to identify methods for improving tracing of foods across supply chains and develop ways to address foodborne illness outbreaks.
No surprise that the pilots showed the process of product tracking was exceedingly complex and “often times confusing.” IFT highlighted inconsistencies in terminology, numbering systems, formatting, and legibility. While many pilot participants had instruments and processes to capture track and trace level data, performance ultimately came down to “the systems and processes in place within a firm to capture, store, and report this information.” (“Pilot Projects for Improving Product Tracing along the Food Supply System—Final Report,” August 2012, IFT).| | | Next → | Single Page