FDA Pilot Projects Aid Tracing of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

They were required under the Food Safety Modernization Act and will lead to a rulemaking.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced two new pilot projects that will enhance both its and the food industry's ability to trace products responsible for foodborne illness outbreaks. The Institute of Food Technologists, a nonprofit scientific society consisting of professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions, will carry them out at FDA's direction under an existing contract.

The Food Safety Modernization Act requires FDA to establish at least two pilot projects, one involving produce and another involving processed foods. It also directed the agency to establish recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods to help in tracing products.

"We can prevent illnesses and reduce the economic impact to the food industry if we can more quickly determine what foods may be causing an outbreak and what foods can be eliminated from consideration," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. "We recognize the importance of engaging stakeholders throughout the process and will consider what is practical for facilities of varying sizes and capabilities."

The pilots will evaluate methods and technologies for rapid tracing, including types of data that are useful for it, ways to connect various points in the supply chain, and how quickly the data are made available to FDA. Key stakeholders will have input into the pilots, which will lead to a rulemaking, the agency said in its Sept. 7 announcement. Three public hearings will be held during the comment period on the proposed rule.

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