IFT said that the idea of the pilot programs was to find the best way to trace food products in an outbreak situation, so they can be quickly recalled from the market to prevent further illness. The programs will include one focused on tracing processed foods, and one focused on produce, the organization said.
IFT executive vice president Barbara Byrd Keenan said in a statement: “Our work for FDA over the past 12 years lays a solid foundation for us to conduct these pilots. Since 2008 IFT has been recognized as a resource for product tracing information, linking the food science community with technology providers, supply chain professionals, public health officials, and others with a shared commitment to product tracing and food safety.”
The organization said that the pilot programs are required by the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law on January 4, and will be conducted under an existing contract with the FDA. The programs will involve multiple stakeholders throughout the food supply chain, IFT said, focusing on how data is used and collected and the impact of different data collection methodologies on the speed and accuracy of product tracing during a foodborne illness outbreak.
IFT also has been charged with evaluating the costs and benefits to companies and society of different ways of collecting and analyzing supply chain data.
FDA deputy commissioner for foods Michael Taylor said: "We can prevent illnesses and reduce the economic impact to the food industry if we can more quickly determine what foods may be causing an outbreak and what foods can be eliminated from consideration.We recognize the importance of engaging stakeholders throughout the process and will consider what is practical for facilities of varying sizes and capabilities."
IFT said that the programs will be conducted in two phases: Firstly, it will ‘tweak’ the current systems in use to make data analysis easier, and then evaluate them to see if they are sufficient to trace products both backward and forward along the supply chain.