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Egg recall highlights need for better traceability, says IFT

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 02-Sep-2010

The recall of more than half a billion eggs linked to a nationwide salmonella outbreak highlights a need for better traceability in the food system, according to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).

IFT submitted recommendations on food product tracing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in March – proposals that it said could help detect the causes of disease outbreaks and contain them more quickly. Some of its recommendations, such as requiring companies to keep more detailed food safety records and allowing FDA more access to those records, are included the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is currently awaiting consideration in the Senate.

IFT vice president Will Fisher said: “Product tracing is a critical part of the food safety legislation that is currently under review because it serves to protect and improve the food supply, not only here in the United States but throughout the global food system.”

The recall of 380m eggs from Wright County Farm, followed by a recall of a further 170m eggs from Hillandale Farms, began in mid-August, but at least 1,400 people had been sickened as a result of salmonella-tainted eggs by that time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The recent salmonella outbreak in eggs highlights a crucial need for an effective product tracing system,” IFT said.

IFT was contracted by the FDA to create a mock trace forward/trace back system focusing on produce, to examine the accessibility of information to public health and regulatory officials, and to consider the cost implications of product tracing. The project was prompted by the 2008 salmonella outbreak that was initially linked to tomatoes before the FDA found that it had originated in Mexican jalapeno and serrano peppers. By that point, the tomato industry had lost an estimated $100m.

The recommendations included in the IFT report included requiring greater industry-wide standardization of format and type of information collected; identification of points along the supply chain where data should be collected; better record keeping; a requirement for traceability to be included in company audits; and mandatory training on compliance.

The full report is available online here .

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