IFT to Execute New Product Tracing Pilot Studies for FDA

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) today announced that it will lead two pilot programs for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to test and study various product tracing systems. The purpose of these pilots will be to identify methods to rapidly and effectively trace food products throughout the supply chain so that, during a food-related outbreak, products can be quickly identified and removed from the marketplace, which will ultimately help minimize the number of consumers affected by a contaminated product.

September 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. -– The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) today announced that it will lead two pilot programs for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designed to test and study various product tracing systems. The purpose of these pilots will be to identify methods to rapidly and effectively trace food products throughout the supply chain so that, during a food-related outbreak, products can be quickly identified and removed from the marketplace, which will ultimately help minimize the number of consumers affected by a contaminated product.

Under an existing contract with FDA, IFT will conduct both the processed food and produce pilots required by the Food Safety Modernization Act, involving multiple stakeholders throughout the food system. IFT will focus on data use and how data collection processes impact the speed and accuracy of traceback during an outbreak. This work will be conducted in two phases:

  • In the first phase, systems currently in use for identifying, capturing, storing, and sharing data will be "tweaked" to facilitate data analysis.
  • During the second stage, supply chain data will be used to determine if the interfaces between existing systems are sufficient to trace a product both forward and back along the supply chain.

In addition, the costs and benefits to companies and society will be evaluated, and methods and technologies available to trace food products, both domestically and globally, will be examined.

"Our work for FDA over the past 12 years lays a solid foundation for us to conduct these pilots," said IFT Executive Vice President Barbara Byrd Keenan. "Since 2008 IFT has been recognized as a resource for product tracing information, linking the food science community with technology providers, supply chain professionals, public health officials, and others with a shared commitment to product tracing and food safety."

The tracing pilots are part of a broader effort to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe as outlined by the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act that requires FDA to conduct pilots involving produce and processed foods that have been implicated in major outbreaks. The pilots will be completed in 2012 and will culminate in an IFT report that will be issued to the FDA. IFT completed a landmark study of product tracing for FDA in 2009.

In addition to the FDA, the study will involve state regulators, United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service (USDA FSIS), consumer groups and other stakeholders. IFT recently launched the IFT Traceability Improvement Initiative and held Traceability Summits this past July and August for stakeholders representing trade associations, industry, regulators, technology providers, standards organizations, consultants and academia. IFT will continue to provide opportunities for stakeholders to learn and exchange ideas about traceability over the next several months. IFT reports, findings, and recommendations regarding traceability are available at ift.org/traceability. Companies interested in participating or learning more about the study can contact Caitlin Hickey at chickey@ift.org, 202-330-4985.

Figure1: Traceability Areas of Importance

At the July 2011 IFT Traceability Research Summit, each attendee voted on 23 factors important for a traceability system. This chart illustrates the top factors, as well as the number of votes by stakeholder group.

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About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a nonprofit scientific society. Our individual members are professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT's mission is to advance the science of food, and our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply, contributing to healthier people everywhere.

For more than 70 years, the IFT has been unlocking the potential of the food science community by creating a dynamic global forum where members from more than 100 countries can share, learn, and grow. We champion the use of sound science across the food value chain through the exchange of knowledge, by providing education, and by furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit ift.org.

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