Acting U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Ned Sharpless and Deputy Commissioner Frank Yiannas have announced a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” to augment its efforts implementing important Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requirements while also leveraging, among other things, the use of new and emerging technologies. To kick off this new focus, the FDA intends to develop a “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety.” The blueprint will address several areas, including traceability, digital technologies, and evolving food business models. The agency will also be holding a public meeting later this year to discuss smarter food safety, seek stakeholder input, and share ideas on its overall strategy and the specific initiatives.

Access to information during an outbreak about the origin of contaminated food helps the FDA conduct more timely root cause analysis and apply these learnings to prevent future incidents from happening in the first place. To help accomplish this goal, the agency’s new era of smarter food safety work will explore opportunities and specific actions to evaluate new technologies and upgrade its abilities to rapidly track and trace food through the supply chain.

Tracing is only one area where technology can enhance food safety. The FDA will also be looking at how to leverage emerging technologies and other approaches that are being used in society and business sectors, such as distributed ledgers, sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence. The FDA will assess how these technologies could create a more digital, transparent, and safer food system while also addressing consumer demands for quick access to information about where their foods come from, how they’re produced and, if the food is the subject of an ongoing recall.

To this end, the FDA has announced that it plans to conduct a new pilot that will leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to explore new ways to enhance the agency’s review of imported foods at ports of entry to ensure they meet U.S. food safety standards. The number of import food lines is increasing year after year and applying the best predictive and analytical tools will help ensure the FDA is targeting the greatest risks to protect consumers.

As customers are increasingly asking for food to be delivered to their homes, there are new methods, packaging materials, temperature control approaches and nodes in the e-commerce food delivery system. The FDA’s new blueprint will discuss areas for collaboration in the e-commerce space as it works to identify the appropriate standard of care in this rapidly growing sector.

Press release

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