FDA proposes new rule to advance food traceability

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The FDA believes the rule will help establish linkages throughout the supply chain during a foodborne illness outbreak investigation and more quickly identify potential sources of contamination.

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed a new rule which will see the introduction of additional traceability recordkeeping requirements for those who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods the Agency has designated for inclusion on the Food Traceability List.

While this is limited to particular foods, the proposed ruling would create a first-of-its-kind standardised approach to traceability recordkeeping, according the FDA.

In a press statement, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Frank Yiannas, said: “We lack a harmonised system of traceability from farm to fork that is universally understood and utilised. This means that during an outbreak investigation, our ability to rapidly track and trace specific food products through the supply chain is often impeded by a lack of data.”

More data, better traceability

More comprehensive traceability through access to records of key data elements associated with critical tracking events in food production and distribution has the potential to help the FDA pinpoint the exact sources of foods involved in food recalls and outbreaks. 

This would help alleviate potentially unsafe products from the market more quickly, preventing additional illness or death, and also help the FDA conduct root cause investigations to determine what led to the outbreak. 

The hope is that this new system would prevent unnecessary broad recalls and consumer advisories which can result in costly product losses, as well as a loss in consumer trust and prolonged outbreaks of consumer illnesses and deaths.

The Agency will be releasing a draft Food Traceability List that identifies foods to which the additional recordkeeping requirements would apply.

This proposed rule would mean that the FDA would be delivering to section 204 of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) which instructs the Agency to develop additional recordkeeping requirements for certain foods to help establish clear tracing of a food product’s source when needed to address food safety risks.

The FDA is now accepting comments on the proposed rule, including perspectives from different parts of the supply chain and businesses of different sizes, which it will consider prior to finalising the ruling.

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