Produce companies interested in taking part in the Institute of Food Technologists’ produce traceability pilot project are encouraged to contact the group. Those who want to learn more about the study and perhaps join the pilot can contact Caitlin Hickey at, 202-330-4985, according to a news release from the institute.

The group revealed on Sept. 7 said it will lead pilot programs for produce and processed foods for Food and Drug Administration. The purpose of these pilots, according to a news release, will be to identify methods to rapidly and effectively trace food products throughout the supply chain.

IFT will focus on data use and how data collection processes impact the speed and accuracy of traceback during an outbreak, according to the news release.

In the first phase of the pilot, systems currently in use for identifying, capturing, storing, and sharing data will be modified to allow data analysis, the release said.

In the second part of the pilot, the release said supply chain data will be evaluated to see if existing systems are sufficient to trace a product forward and back along the supply chain.

Jennifer McEntire, senior staff scientist and director, Institute of Food Technologists, said the pilot projects will require minimal if any changes to existing business systems. She said the projects will look at the costs and benefits of traceability. McEntire said IFT wants to measure where the industry is today in respect to traceability so the agency can measure the improvements.

The FDA does not plan to recommended specific product tracing technologies, said Sherri McGarry, senior adviser in the FDA’s Office of Foods.

IFT is expected to announce the specific focus for the pilots by late October and conclude the projects by March. After the pilots are complete, the institute will compile an evaluation report and submit it to the FDA, according to the release.