September 15, 2011
In the past five years, consumers have faced widespread outbreaks of foodborne illnesses tied to foods—such as spinach, peanut butter and eggs—that are staples of the American diet.
The Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to prevent or shorten these outbreaks by developing the tools needed to rapidly track down foods that may be contaminated.
Two pilot projects—one for processed foods and the other for produce—will be conducted to explore how FDA and the food industry can quickly trace foods back to the common source of contamination that led to an outbreak of foodborne illnesses. These pilots must include at least three different types of foods that were the subject of significant outbreaks in the five years preceding the January 2011 enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) will carry out the pilots, at FDA’s direction, under an existing contract with the agency. IFT is a Chicago-based nonprofit scientific society focused on food science and technology and has previously worked with FDA on product-tracing studies.
These pilots are mandated by the landmark food safety law that requires FDA to implement a system that is based on science and addresses food safety hazards from farm to table.
“We can prevent illnesses and reduce the economic impact to the food industry if we can more quickly discover what food may be causing an outbreak and what foods can be eliminated from consideration,” says Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods.