As expected, the Food and Drug Administration’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety leans heavily on technology, particularly in traceability and outbreak responses.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, whose tenure included several E. coli outbreaks linked to romaine, voiced concerns about the lack of technology hampering investigations, and said it would be a priority for the FDA.
In announcing the “blueprint” for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety on July 13, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it’s important the technology is used “to build and put in place more effective approaches and processes.”
The blueprint has four core elements:
- Tech-enabled traceability;
- Smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response;
- New business models and retail food modernization; and
- Food safety culture.
Hahn said the blueprint to implement the New Era builds on the work the FDA has taken with the Food Safety Modernization Act, and is the next stage in the process.
Each of the core elements are assigned leaders from the FDA’s foods program.
“We want to explore ways to encourage companies to adopt tracing technologies and also to harmonize efforts to follow food from farm to table,” Hahn said in his statement. “We should strive to speak the same language, by espousing similar data standards across government and industry for tracking and tracing a food product.”
Inside the FDA, plans include strengthening procedures and protocols for conducting root cause analyses to understand how food becomes contaminated in the hopes of preventing it in the first place.
“Another example of the kinds of new tools we’re developing for prevention can be seen in a pilot program we’re conducting that will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to strengthen the agency’s review of imported foods at ports of entry to help ensure that they meet U.S. food safety standards,” Hahn said in the statement.
Hahn said the FDA was days away from announcing the blueprint details in March when the pandemic delayed it and worked turned to address COVID-19.
“In the months that have followed, it has become even clearer — from our experiences with the pandemic and the lessons we have been learning as part of the FDA’s response to it — just how essential the actions outlined in this blueprint are and, if anything, that they are more important now, than ever,” Hahn said in his statement.
According to the blueprint, the FDA plans to engage members of the industry, academics, trade associations, consumer groups and regulators agencies and groups it traditionally has not worked with before, including technology companies.
“We recognize that building on our food safety approach in a rapidly evolving and interconnected world will require resources and innovation,” according to the blueprint. “Continued investments throughout FDA and the food safety system will be critical to improving public health and reducing supply chain disruption.”
While some of the document’s aspects will be addressed by the end of the year, the FDA describes it as a decade-long pursuit with evolving activities.
The FDA has a FAQ list on its New Era for Smarter Food Safety webite.