iFoodDS Backs Rep. Panetta-Led Effort to Improve Food Safety Through Traceability & Enhanced Outbreak Response
By Diane Wetherington
June 22, 2021
Protecting America’s food supply is a critical task. A bipartisan group of Members of Congress led by US Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) is working to ensure legislative language is included by Congress in this year’s federal agriculture/Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appropriations (funding) bill that would further encourage coordination and communication among growers, food safety organizations and the federal government with respect to food traceability.
The goal of Mr. Panetta’s legislation is to ensure that government and industry together are equipped to identify and recall contaminated product more swiftly and accurately in the event of an outbreak. iFoodDS commends Mr. Panetta and his colleagues for their leadership and is working to help build support for the proposed legislative language among Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
During a May 18 meeting with iFoodDS founder Diane Wetherington, Mr. Panetta – a senior member of the House Committee on Agriculture who represents California’s Salinas Valley (known as the “Salad Bowl of the World”) in the US House of Representatives – discussed the legislative effort he and his colleagues are leading.
Mr. Panetta and his staff highlighted an April 27, 2021 letter to the bipartisan leadership of the House Committee on Appropriations, in which Mr. Panetta and his colleagues noted that language was successfully included in last year’s agriculture appropriations bill “supporting improved FSMA [Food Safety Modernization Act] partnerships with industry partners and state and local government entities, high-risk foods, and food traceability.” The effect of the language was to “bring the country closer to a safer food system by improving the coordination and communication between growers, food safety organizations, and the federal government.” However, Mr. Panetta and his colleagues noted, more can be done:
“We urge the Committee to update existing report language to ensure the FDA continues its dialogue, partnerships, and outreach to farmers before, during, and after foodborne outbreaks occur. This communication is essential as the federal government and leafy green producers work together to better protect our nation’s food supply. Additionally, the language and funding will help the federal government and industry identify and recall contaminated product faster and more precisely when there is an outbreak.”
Mr. Panetta and his allies are urging the inclusion of language in this year’s bill focusing on three areas: FDA Food Safety Partnerships and Communications Protocol; Food Traceability; and Traceback.
With respect to FDA Food Safety Partnerships and Communications Protocol, Mr. Panetta and colleagues propose the following language:
“The Committee encourages FDA to work in partnership with existing government food safety programs and industry to share information and data with industry partners and state and local government entities to better coordinate before, during, and after outbreaks occur. The Committee recommends that FDA develop a communications protocol during the outbreak notification process. The Committee encourages FDA to identify specific details when releasing information to the public, such as geographic location and more carefully identifying products of interest and, where appropriate, describing a product as ‘unknown’ until pertinent details are identified.
With respect to Food Traceability:
“The Committee provides an increase of $9.5 million to facilitate traceability and enhance outbreak response to prevent further illnesses. The Committee is encouraged by the work the FDA has put forth in developing a blueprint to outline strategies to develop a wide-scale traceability system that helps companies and government agencies more rapidly trace foods implicated in disease outbreaks and subject to recall through their New Era of Smarter Food Safety Initiative.”
And with respect to Traceback:
“The Committee recognizes that the ability to trace back contaminated products is critical to containing food safety outbreaks but that challenges associated with tracing these products from the end-consumer through the supply chain continue to persist. The Committee directs FDA to emphasize in its final rulemaking the importance of capturing at the point-of-sale details such as the lot number and product identifier instead of prescribing the mechanism by which the information is shared through the supply chain. The Committee also directs FDA to ensure these details are maintained from the point of origination, creation, and/or transformation through to the retail food or food service establishment. To avoid duplication, the Committee urges FDA to clearly define traceability requirements that, where possible, align with existing consensus standards for traceability utilized by industry and allow for records to be maintained in electronic and paper form.”
Mr. Panetta’s letter was co-signed by Reps. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), and Paul Gosar (R-AZ). The letter was sent to House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX), and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
iFoodDS applauds Mr. Panetta and his colleagues for their leadership and is proud to lend its voice in support of their legislative efforts, which stand to make a positive difference for food safety and traceability in America.