On Thursday of the 2022 Food Safety Summit, a morning education session examined how to build an individualized blueprint for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tech-enabled traceability. Mark Moorman, Director of the Office of Food Safety for the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) at FDA, and Andrew Kennedy, New Era Technology Team Leader at the FDA Office of Food Policy and Response (OFPR), discussed how to advance traceability to help protect consumers from contaminated food, voluntary adoption of tracing technologies, and ways to harmonize tracing activities.

The concept behind of the Blueprint for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety is to be "a modern approach for modern times" led by people, based on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), and enabled by technology. New Era's Core Element 1—Tech-Enabled Traceability—will require "getting out of [Washington D.C.] and finding new partners and working together," said Mr. Moorman. "It's going to require FDA to get comfortable with asking, 'what if?' questions."

"The most important thing we can do is get bad food out of the marketplace," Mr. Moorman continued. This will require smarter tools and approaches for recall modernization, illness prevention, and outbreak response. Mr. Moorman gave an example of being able to immediately and remotely "digitally blacklist" recalled foods sold in a grocery store so that their SKUs will not scan properly when customers try to purchase them, thereby preventing the customers from consuming food that is known to be contaminated. "We're not there yet—but we'll get there," Mr. Moorman said.

Mr. Moorman and Mr. Kennedy then invited attendees to participate in an interactive session, wherein each table created their own "blueprint" for traceability. The ten groups brainstormed ideas for a series of three questions:

  1. How can your organization or industry improve interoperability using traceability standards?
  2. How can your organization or industry encourage the digital transformation of traceability information by adopting new technologies?
  3. How will the digital transformation of traceability benefit your industry or organization?

Technology sharing was a theme that arose from the groups' answers to the first question, as were technology consistency and standardization among suppliers, processors, and consumers. Another group mentioned a global system for keeping lot information, easy-to-use tools for employees, and digitization of records as necessary improvements to interoperability.

Groups also underlined a number of ways that they could encourage the digital transformation of traceability information and how digital transformation could benefit their organizations. They highlighted the needs to give incentives to vendors for using systems, to make technology less expensive and easier to use, to utilize technology to its full ability, and to provide more digital and technology training. Framing recalls in a more positive light in the media would also help, one group pointed out. Another group underlined the need for partnerships to enhance information sharing.

Additional ideas involved the inclusion of digital traceability requirements in supplier contracts, the development of tools (e.g., artificial intelligence) for better analysis and use of digital traceability data, and the development of data privacy and security protocols to allow more selective sharing of information. An additional and important benefit is more efficient risk management, one group noted.

The 2022 Food Safety Summit is taking place in person at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois from May 9–12. Stay tuned for more conference coverage!