On July 13, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn unveiled FDA's New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint. It builds on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and outlines the approach FDA will take over the next decade.Influenced at least in part by the coronavirus pandemic -- which also caused a delay in finalizing the document -- the plan is centered around four core elements:
1. Tech-enabled traceability
2. Smarter tools and approaches for prevention and outbreak response
3. New business models and retail modernization
4. Food safety culture
"It outlines a partnership between government, industry and public health advocates based on a commitment to create a more modern approach to food safety," Hahn wrote in its introduction.
In April 2019, FDA announced the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative, and shortly thereafter began talking to experts within the agency to provide their input on how to write the plan. Public hearings starting in October 2019 added insights.
"When we look at how industries track, through digital means, the real-time movement of planes, ride sharing and packaged goods or how firms are harnessing big data to identify trends, it is clear FDA and our stakeholders should be looking at how to tap into new technologies that include, but are not limited to, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, sensor technologies, and blockchain," it says.
Point by point:
- Tech-enabled traceability: "The first step in our work will be completing FSMA Section 204 rulemaking to harmonize the key data elements and critical tracking events needed for enhanced traceability."
The records involved in moving food through the supply chain are still largely paper-based, and the report calls this "an Achilles heel that hinders more significant progress in rapid traceback efforts to identify contaminated foods." But it only stresses "ways to encourage firms to voluntarily adopt tracing technologies," not mandates.
- Smarter tools and approaches: Root cause analysis protocols are a key element here. So are "strengthen[ing] predictive analytics capabilities."\
- New business models and retail modernization: FDA wants to convene a "new food business model summit" to identify future courses of action to address potential food safety vulnerabilities. Participants would include USDA, CDC as well as retailers and food delivery companies. And this part includes a note to "facilitate the safe development of new food ingredients and production technologies to foster product innovation."
- Food safety culture: To promote food safety culture throughout the food system, the agency will develop a "food safety culture social marketing plan to strengthen a culture of food safety in the establishments we regulate and in turn, influence and sustain widespread safe-food behavior changes." Part of that will be "encourage[ing] influencers, such as chefs, bloggers, cooking shows, celebrities, and industry leaders to model desired safe-food behaviors." As well as developing FDA educational materials.\
It's an omnibus document -- actually a set of documents. Read the full document