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U.S. FDA unveils New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint

Marshall Keener, Director of Community Engagement - Government at GS1 US

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration unveiled on July 13, the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, a strategic plan to strengthen the protection of the nation’s food supply that builds on the nearly decade-old Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). In emphasizing the need for an interoperable food system, the blueprint discusses standards-based collaboration as a foundational component to tech-enabled traceability, and cites the importance of standards bodies like GS1 to enable harmonization with the U.S. and international regulatory counterparts.

U.S. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the New Era plan begins a new journey for food safety in terms of using new technology and other tools to help digitize food supply chain. The goal is to curb foodborne illness by improving traceability, strengthening predictive analytic tools, responding more quickly to outbreaks, addressing new business models, reducing food contamination and developing stronger food safety cultures. This blueprint outlines a path forward building off the work from FSMA, which has been the U.S. FDA’s centerpiece work regarding food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses.

Hahn said tech-enabled traceability one of the core four strategic areas, will allow the U.S. FDA and food supply chain stakeholders to address a key challenge in recent years: recurring outbreaks of illnesses related to the consumption of certain foods. Greater use of technology will enable faster tracing of contaminated food to its source in minutes — “not days, weeks, or even longer,” he noted.

“We want to explore ways to encourage companies to adopt tracing technologies and also to harmonize efforts to follow food from farm to table. We should strive to speak the same language by espousing similar data standards across government and industry for tracking and tracing a food product,” Hahn said. Supply issues during the coronavirus pandemic, he pointed out, showed that widespread tracing capability provides more supply chain visibility.

GS1 US was particularly proud to have had Frank Yiannas, the U.S. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, a chief architect of the New Era, speak with GS1 US president and CEO, Bob Carpenter at GS1 Connect: Digital Edition just weeks before the release of the blueprint. There is no question that GS1 US and their members will play a role to drive the success of the blueprint over the next 10 years. Pandemic or not, there is certainly an opportunity for GS1 Standards to help make the food supply chain a safer place.