Foods were once produced just “around the corner”, nowadays they can travel many miles to reach our dining tables. As a result, many foods are now available all year-round at affordable prices. Experts believe that over the next ten years, we will see more innovation in the agricultural, food production and food distribution sectors than in the past 20 years. This will lead to an even greater variety of benefits for consumers on one hand, but to a growing number of food safety challenges on the other hand. The FDA is announcing a “new era of smarter food safety” in order to meet those challenges.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protects public health by assuring the safety of human and veterinary drugs and biological products for human use. The agency also focusses on taking advantage of new opportunities and addressing potential risks. The implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011 has already led to improvements in the U.S. food supply chain by establishing science- and risk-based standards for the production and transportation of domestic and imported foods. In a recent statement, FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless and deputy commissioner Frank Yiannas announced “a new era of smarter food safety”. This is intended to augment the efforts of implementing FSMA requirements while leveraging the use of new and emerging technologies at the same time. But what does smarter food safety actually mean?
Digital technology to enhance food safety
A multitude of technical innovations such as digital sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are helping to create more digital, transparent and safer food systems. Tracking and tracing is one example where technology can enhance food safety. While identifying contaminated products in the past has taken weeks, evolving digital technologies can now deliver results in minutes or seconds. But there is scope to optimize these processes further. FDAs’ new era of smarter food safety will find ways to upgrade the ability to track and trace food faster through the supply chain in order to prevent future incidents.
While other industries are already using technological innovation such as artificial intelligence successfully, it is time to make use of it in the food industry to optimize food safety processes. The FDA plans to implement AI when it comes to reviewing imported foods to ensure they meet US food safety standards. As the number of imported foods increases year on year, the amount of inspection required increases too. Intelligent inspection systems can help to meet such challenges.
As a next step, the FDA plans to develop a so called “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety” which will address relevant areas such as traceability and digital technologies. The agency will hold a public meeting later this year to discuss smarter food safety, to gather input from stakeholders and to share ideas on their overall strategy.