FDA officials on Tuesday announced plans to augment the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) with new initiatives that will use emerging technologies to speed the tracking and tracing of food through the supply chain. As a start, FDA intends to develop a “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety” that will cover traceability, digital technologies and evolving food business models, such as e-commerce, while addressing potential risks in the food supply.

Although no timetable for the blueprint was given, the officials said FDA will hold a public meeting later this year to seek stakeholder input, learn what others are doing to enhance food safety and share the agency’s strategic ideas and initiatives. IDFA was instrumental in providing industry insight and feedback during development of the FSMA regulations and will continue to emphasize the dairy industry’s priority focus on promoting and enhancing food safety.

In a joint statement, Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D., and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas said they expect emerging digital technologies to play a pivotal role in the agency’s traceability efforts, allowing FDA to discover the source of a contaminated food within seconds or minutes instead of days or weeks. With faster results in hand, FDA officials can conduct timely root-cause analyses and apply the learnings to prevent future incidents from happening.

Digital Technologies

Tracing the source of contamination is only one area where technology can enhance food safety, they said. FDA also will consider a variety of technologies and approaches now in use, such as distributed ledgers, sensors, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

“We will assess how these technologies could create a more digital, transparent and safer food system while also addressing consumer demands for quick access to information about where their foods come from, how they’re produced and if the food is the subject of an ongoing recall,” they said.

Noting that the volume of imported food is increasing every year, Sharpless and Yiannis said FDA plans to conduct a new pilot program using artificial intelligence and machine learning at U.S. ports of entry to ensure the imports meet U.S. food safety standards. The growing e-commerce food-delivery system presents new food safety questions and challenges as well, which will be addressed in the blueprint.  

“IDFA has offered sessions at Dairy Forum on these emerging technologies, and we’re following their growing use in the food industry,” said John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards. “IDFA will continue to provide information that will help members stay up to date and prepared to meet FDA’s expectations on tracing and tracking products and ingredients in the event of a recall.” 

For more information, contact Allan at jallan@idfa.org.