FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety: Traceability
By Diane Wetherington
Founder and Executive Chairman
August 26, 2020
Traceability is among the core elements of the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” Blueprint. FDA states: “We want to explore ways to encourage companies to adopt tracing technologies and also to harmonize efforts to follow food from farm to table. We should strive to speak the same language, by espousing similar data standards across government and industry for tracking and tracing a food product.”
We can agree that these are necessary objectives, but for companies there are other considerations. “Traceability systems must not only fulfill the farm to fork objective, but they must be easy to implement, easy to use and cost effective,” says Diane Wetherington, iFoodDecisionSciences (iFoodDS) Executive Chair of the Board.
Traceability systems must also promote the ability for multiple companies to access needed data whenever necessary, which is an advantage for cloud-based systems, such as iFoodDS | HarvestMark’s line of traceability products.
“We hear the term interoperability often when discussing traceability,” Wetherington said. “For us, it means that even if companies throughout the supply chain aren’t using the same systems, data can be submitted once and entered into all systems simultaneously because we have an effective interface for that data,” she explains. “We believe this is what FDA intends by ‘striving to speak the same language’ when it comes to traceability,” she adds.
Too often in today’s environment companies are tasked with separately entering data into multiple systems in order to facilitate traceback, however, this takes valuable resources and time, is inefficient, plus there is more room for error. This traceability approach is simply not sustainable nor does it advance continuous improvement.
“Every company wants to improve their traceability systems because they clearly understand the importance but this can seem like a challenging, frustrating and expensive task. We understand that and this is why we try to emphasize ease of use and cost effectiveness in our products,” Wetherington says. “Technology-enabled solutions from iFoodDS can overcome the inadequacies in current systems and help companies achieve item-level traceability throughout the supply chain.”
In September, FDA plans to complete the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Section 204 rulemaking, which will harmonize the key data elements and critical tracking events needed for enhanced traceability. FDA states that establishing this foundation for traceability will allow stakeholders in the supply chain to adopt and leverage digitally-enabled technologies and enable data sharing to achieve end-to-end traceability. While this rulemaking will provide more information on traceability requirements, companies throughout the supply chain should be evaluating their systems and practices so they are prepared to comply with FSMA Section 204.
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 will focus on these four core elements to help companies minimize the burden of complying with FDA’s “Smarter Era” blueprint.