FDA’s “Smarter Era” Blueprint: Tools and Approaches For Prevention and Outbreak Response
By Diane Wetherington
Founder and Executive Chairman
October 29, 2020
When the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released its “Era of Smarter Food Safety” blueprint, among the more detailed core elements is the “Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response.” This section largely focuses on needed improvements to government investigatory procedures during and after an outbreak event, the need for improved data gathering methods and analysis to prevent future outbreaks as well as how to achieve better, faster communications to consumers and others during outbreaks and recalls.
While much of what is outlined in this section falls to government to lead on implementation, companies can play a role as well in protecting public health through the use of software and accessible data that provides real time information about your food safety programs. In addition, companies can take appropriate steps to be prepared to effectively handle a recall or outbreak event if the unthinkable happens.
What role can real time, readily accessible data play if a company is involved in an outbreak or recall investigation? “Think about the ability to provide information quickly to your customer or the FDA in terms of both product traceability and as well as associated SOPs. Can you answer their questions quickly on a paper-based system?” says Diane Wetherington, Executive Chair of the Board of iFoodDS. “Speed matters not only for the benefit of your business and your customers, but also for the consumer and public health,” she explains. “The faster you can provide the needed information, the more quickly you can determine whether a product is implicated in an outbreak and if it is, the location and cause of the outbreak, reducing consumer, company and industry risks.”
Requests for product traceback and trace-forward documents and information can be accompanied by requests for food safety practices used in crop production. “You don’t want to be going through documents in binders at that point,” Wetherington says. “The advantage of cloud-based traceability and food safety software solutions is that data can be mined instantly so companies are not spending precious response time tracking records between multiple suppliers and customers. This can be key to quickly exonerating your products.”
Digitized data is about how you enter, store and access records. If you can access data in real time once you enter it into software, you can then sort the data and view multiple records and details immediately. We would call this digitized data.
But what if your company is implicated? Accurate, actionable food safety information can help a company move through a recall or outbreak event more efficiently and with expedience. The more specific and detailed the product information, the easier it is for your company, government agencies and your customers to provide consumers with straightforward and helpful information. Ruling products out or in quickly also lessens the potential impact on the implicated commodity and industry.
Companies should also be prepared in advance for the extensive communication demands which accompany a recall or outbreak event. Are you ready to provide needed information to your customers, media, consumers, industry partners? Do you have adequate response mechanisms in place? Effective communications and outreach goes hand-in-hand with the importance of assisting government agencies in their investigation, minimizing the impact on your company and, most importantly, protecting consumers.
According to the FDA, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety is a new approach to food safety which leverages technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system. The New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint is centered around four core elements: Tech-enabled Traceability; Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response; New Business Models and Retail Modernization; and, Food Safety Culture. iFoodDS’ new blog series focuses on these four core elements to help companies minimize the burden of complying with FDA’s Smarter Era blueprint.
For a personal consultation on your company’s cloud-based software solutions and traceability needs, contact sales@iFoodDS.com or call 206.219.3703 to learn more about iFoodDS’ food supply chain safety, traceability and quality solutions.