The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has highlighted select accomplishments that the agency has achieved during 2022 in support of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.
The New Era of Smarter Food Safety is FDA’s approach to food safety that leverages technology and other tools and approaches to create a safer, more digital, and more traceable food system. The New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint includes four Core Elements: Tech-Enabled Traceability, Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response, New Business Models and Retail Modernization, and Food Safety Culture. FDA has highlighted its accomplishments related to each of the four Core Elements.
The aim of Core Element 1—Tech-Enabled Traceability in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint is to have end-to-end traceability throughout the food system, with firms voluntarily adopting tracing technologies. Harmonizing tracing activities to support interoperability is a priority, as is finding solutions that are achievable for companies of all sizes. Achievements FDA accomplished in 2022 related to Core Element 1 are:
- Issued the Food Traceability Final Rule as mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
- Distributed educational materials about the Food Traceability Final Rule and hosted a webinar focused on the contents of the rule
- Initiated international engagement to increase awareness of the Food Traceability Final Rule and to explore traceability systems currently used by international governments
- Separate from the Food Traceability Final Rule, FDA developed a process to request consumer purchase data from retailers during outbreak investigations.
The scope of Core Element 2— Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint includes root cause analyses, predictive analytics, inspection, training and compliance tools, outbreak response, recall modernization, and domestic mutual reliance. Achievements FDA accomplished in 2022 related to Core Element 2 are:
- Entered Phase 3 of a seafood pilot leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to see if AI can improve the ability to quickly and efficiently identify imported products that may pose a threat to public health
- Expanded partnership agreements with the addition of Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Virginia, continuing to implement a domestic mutual reliance operational framework for more consistent and sustainable information sharing and collaboration in foodborne illness prevention, detection, and response
- Released an online Agricultural Water Assessment Builder to help farmers understand proposed pre-harvest agricultural water requirements using an interactive format
- Released the first in a series of prevention strategies to enhance food safety that target specific commodity-hazard pairings
- Improved the Enforcement Report for all FDA-monitored recalls to include the ability to keyword search up to five terms of potential interest (e.g., allergens, product types, specific hazards)
- Released the Activities for the Safety of Imported Produce report to detail how the agency is working to enhance the safety of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Progressed the U.S.–Mexico Food Safety Partnership, including: enhancing the Binational Outbreak Notification Protocol for more timely and effective communication between the U.S. and Mexico, developing the standard operating procedure for and piloting an accompanied unannounced farm visit with Mexican food safety authorities, and establishing a new whole genome sequencing (WGS) commitment with a data-sharing agreement for FDA to provide training and Mexico to upload 100 sequences to the GenomeTrakr network
- Expanded oversight of imported shrimp from the three largest exporting countries—Ecuador, India, and Indonesia—signed confidentiality commitments with the competent authorities in Ecuador and India, and provided seafood safety training to the competent authorities in all three countries
- Used regulatory tools, including remote assessments and sampling, to enhance oversight of foreign facilities that FDA cannot routinely inspect
- Advanced Root Cause Analysis (RCA) work by establishing an internal Standard Operating Procedure and beginning to support its implementation by working on a training module for FDA staff and, externally, an RCA guidance for industry
- Developed a plan and proof of concept to finish Systems Recognition assessment of EU Member States
- Launched a new five-year agreement to replace the Food Safety Network with the Food Safety for Food Security initiative with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to build global food safety capacity
- Completed Phase 3 of a five-phase multiyear workstream to introduce WGS to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation region
- Supported the effort to build genomic surveillance capacity in India, Indonesia, and Ecuador with GenomeTrakr in collaboration with the World Organization for Animal Health and the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
- Developed methods for sequencing and analyzing SARS-CoV-2 from wastewater with GenomeTrakr funded by the American Rescue Plan
- Published a One Health Enteric Package in the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s BioSample, capturing machine-readable metadata for enteric pathogens collected from humans, animals, food, food facilities, and the environment.
Core Element 3— New Business Models and Retail Modernization focuses on ensuring food safety at the retail level, including both traditional and e-commerce business models. Achievements FDA accomplished in 2022 related to Core Element 3 are:
- Collaborated with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Conference for Food Protection to release food safety best practices for third-party delivery services
- Entered a Memorandum of Understanding between FDA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen food safety in retail and foodservice establishments.
- Supported specific objectives with Retail Food Safety Collaborative funding
- Developed a Food Code Adoption Toolkit for regulatory jurisdictions working to adopt a newer version of the Food Code.
Finally, Core Element 4—Food Safety Culture focuses on influencing human behavior to prioritize the safety of food. Achievements FDA accomplished in 2022 related to Core Element 4 are:
- Trained more than 1,000 FDA inspectional staff to introduce them to behavioral and organizational principles that make up food safety culture
- Released a review of scientific literature to better understand how food safety culture is defined, developed, maintained, and assessed by organizations
- Conducted a series of webinars on food safety culture in collaboration with The Alliance to Stop Foodborne Illness
- Met with domestic and international regulatory partners, industry stakeholders, and consumer groups to discuss food safety culture.