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Insights on FDA’s “Smarter Era of Food Safety” Meeting

Tuesday, November 12, 2019  
Posted by: Mary Kendall Dixon
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In October, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public meeting to discuss “A Smarter Era of Food Safety.”  Showing the high level of interest among food companies, both the in-person meeting and webinar drew capacity crowds. The FDA meeting focused on creating a safer, more technology-centric and traceable food system, but doing it faster and more effectively.

The FDA meeting included interactive breakout sessions for participants which included: 

  • Tech-enabled traceability and outbreak response
  • Smarter tools and approaches for prevention
  • Adapting to new business models and retail modernization
  • Food safety culture

According to Food Safety Tech magazine, some of the key points regarding the traceability breakout session included:

  • FDA should consider all parts of the supply chain when thinking about traceability;
  • Take into account considerations for sharing sensitive data along the supply chain;
  • Speak a common language and create data standards, along with necessary minimum data elements for traceability;
  • Better communication related to data sharing as well as more meetings with FDA and stakeholders, especially during outbreaks;
  • Provide a roadmap or recommendation for companies on where they can begin on their traceability journey;

Digitizing data was also a focus of the meeting.  During a public comment session, Diane Wetherington, CEO of iFoodDecisionSciences (iFoodDS) shared these insights:  “For real time solutions, data is critical. Throughout the supply chain, we are collecting data, mostly on paper, but we are documenting what is being done throughout the day in our food safety operations. That data has great value. At the industry level, we need to be positioned to have data for companies to investigate their own food safety risks and collectively to understand how those risks apply to similar operations, product varieties and impact best practices.”

Next steps?  The FDA states input from this meeting and any further public comments will help them create a strategic plan to outline how this new approach will address public health challenges, including being able to trace sources of contaminated foods and using new predictive analytics tools like artificial intelligence to assess risks and prioritize the agency’s work and resources. “FDA is working toward enhancing its ongoing efforts to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by creating a more digital, traceable, and safer system to help protect consumers from contaminated food,” according to an FDA statement.  

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