The FDA has recently proposed a new rule that it believes puts down the foundation for ‘farm-to-table’ traceability throughout the US food industry.

This may start with a list of problematic food products, but the larger target is better traceability across the food supply.

According to the Agency, The rule focusses to establish supplementary traceability recordkeeping necessities “beyond what is already needed in existing regulations.”

On 21st Sept., the agency proclaimed “Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods,” a proposal for establishing additional traceability recordkeeping necessities for certain foods, such as soft cheese, nut butters, various ready-to-eat salads, leafy greens, freshly cut fruits and vegetables, some types of fish and seafood like lobster and oysters, shell eggs.

It is applicable to organizations that produce, process, pack or hold foods the regulator has chosen for inclusion on a food traceability list (FTL), which comprises of foods that pose particular risks to the safety as in case of foodborne illnesses.

The rule considers several instances recent outbreaks related to foodborne illness which involved produce, and to trace back their source of origin was proved to be the most challenging task. This new rule is anticipated to make it easier to quickly and efficiently track back the movement of a food in case of a foodborne illness outbreak.

“While FDA identifies that several companies and organizations have implemented tough traceability practices, there have also been cases wherein lack of sufficient data, late access to data, and inconsistent traceability programs have hampered FDA’s potential to inspect efficaciously and respond to food safety outbreaks,” reports The Acheson Group, a food safety consultancy headed by David Acheson, former Associate Commissioner of Foods at FDA.

Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response stated that “we are short of an orchestrated system of traceability from farm to fork that is universally understood and used.”

He also added- “This means that during an outbreak investigation, our capability to quickly track and trace particular food products across the supply chain is often obstructed by a lack of data.”

“What we are proposing today has a direct influence on averting foodborne illness,” he further Yiannas.

FDA affirms the proposed rule will frame a first-of-its-kind standardized methodology to traceability recordkeeping that should make it effortless to introduce more digital track-and-trace systems in coming times
“More detailed and all-inclusive traceability through access to records of key data elements linked with analytical tracking events in food production and supply has the ability to assist us in accurately locate the exact sources of foods involved in outbreaks.”

As per the FDA, the availability of the traceability records that are set out in the proposed rule would also aid in limiting the prospects of recalls and in some cases, allow the FDA to better target consumer advice, circumventing ‘blanket’ cautions on whole commodity sectors.

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