What is The New Era of Food Safety? (Part 5 of 5)

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by Eric Moore, Director of Food Safety & Industry Outreach, Testo North America

Welcome back food safety friends for the 5th and final edition of my foodservice industry insights on the New Era of Smarter Food Safety. To close out this blog series we are going to spend time exploring the core element titled Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response and how this looks to materialize at the retail and foodservice end of the industry.

The Traceability Rule is a key part of the entire New Era process as it will provide access to vast amounts of information collected by industry. It also means that FDA is going to need to work towards more domestic uniformity on how regulators in the US conduct investigations, share investigation finding as well as educate and train inspectors on not only how to do the investigations but how to use the new tools that will be at their disposal. As high-level starting point lets quickly explore the Smarter Approaches for Prevention and Response portion of this element. The long term goal; a public and private data sharing partnership/network that will enable a prevention focused food supply system that is capable of rapidly identifying and communicating potential product contamination issues leading faster market withdrawals of products and ideally that ability to avoid from having the product even enter commerce. 

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In more simple term, FDA looks to develop and establish a public-private data trust for globally harmonized product traceability information that can be supported through standardized investigation practices to support rapid recall communication and ideally prevent a recall entirely. As all these amazing prevention focused processes and systems are being established FDA will be seeking and encouraging the use of Smarter Tools that will gather, compile, and analyze all this information.

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Smarter Tools and Approaches portions of this New Era element is where I think most of the noticeable change will occur for the Retail and Foodservice industry. As a starting point, FDA is looking to modernize their own inspection and reporting capabilities using mobile inspection and reporting technology. This change creates a need for the development of training and education on how to use these tools and systems for both the regulatory officers using the tools but some education for retail and foodservice operators on this change. I am confident that FDA will be as transparent as possible with industry as this transition goes into effect but also encourage Retailers and Foodservice operators that receive FDA inspections or surveillance visits to proactively plan for this. Many local jurisdictions have been using mobile inspection tools for several years so this might not require much more than a conversation with your teams, or your regional/local FDA office.

Keeping with the inspection topic, FDA is also looking to explore ways to leverage third-party audit data to improve risk-prioritization to support agency activities. To me, the Retail and Foodservice industry should be very interested on this outcome as it may pave the way for state and local public health agencies to follow their lead. A final focus of FDA (which is a reoccurring theme) is the encouragement and support of sensor technology to automatically monitor key food safety risk factors (like time and temperature, handwashing, health and hygiene, cleaning, and sanitation).

This is going to bring this blog series to a close for now and we have covered a great deal of information about the FDA New Era of Food Safety. In closing I would like to leave you with a couple parting thoughts. FDA has begun a massive change management process of how they operate internally, interact externally and how the entire food system functions to improve the safety of the foods and services we provide and receive. This is truly a remarkable undertaking and I feel privileged to be able to be involved in what is surely to go down in history as the golden age of food safety.

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