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Food Companies Creating Sophisticated Traceability Tech

A recent addition to the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), poised to go into effect in 2023 to minimize the scope and duration of food recalls, requires such complex technology that food industry businesses are working together to create a viable traceability system. The issue was examined in a white paper by GS1US, an industry standards organization.

The FSMA allows the FDA to strengthen the food safety system by focusing on preventing food-borne illnesses rather than primarily having to react to problems after they happen, Modern Restaurant Management reported.

Section 204 of the FSMA, released in 2020, expands the FDA’s regulatory authority over the way foods are grown, processed, and transported. The most urgent aspect of 204 for food businesses is the comprehensive food traceability record.

Section 204 permits the FDA to request Critical Tracking Events (CTE), with which businesses must respond within 24 hours. The FDA Food Traceability list includes approximately 20 categories of fresh and processed foods, including shellfish, fin fish, nut butters, and whole produce, Modern Restaurant Management reported.

The FDA said it wants to encourage firms to develop solutions that would be low-cost or no-cost to the end user. It invited stakeholders to help achieve the goal.

The FDA thus instituted its New Era of Smarter Food Safety program to achieve source-to-table traceability and ran a competition to jumpstart food businesses’ cooperation in developing the required technology. In 2021, it announced the 12 winners of its Traceability Challenge. The winning teams hailed from the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand.

“The larger companies are going to make a big effort to bring along smaller partners in terms of education on advanced technologies, preparation for increased automation and phasing out their reliance on manual processes,” said Angela Fernandez, a GS1US executive.

The food industry is hopeful that the New Era of Smarter Food Safety will unite supply chain partners in recognizing the urgent need for more digitization and efficiency, Fernandez added.

Section 204 of the FMSA requires all parties in a product’s supply chain to record and access quickly—in hours or even minutes, rather than days—more kinds of data at each step of production and transportation than was required previously.

“Previously, FSMA only required ‘one up/one down’ visibility of the product’s movement through the supply chain,” Fernandez said.