FDA Announces Blueprint for ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’
Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a blueprint for improving the safety of the foods the agency regulates. The approach, dubbed the “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” while light on details, “outlines the approach FDA will take over the next decade to usher in the New Era of Smarter Food Safety.”
Though the blueprint is new, plans for it have been underway for more than a year. In an April 2019 statement, then-acting FDA commissioner Ned Sharpless teased a “new era of smarter food safety that is people-led, FSMA-based, and technology-enabled!“
FSMA is the acronym for the Food Safety Modernization Act. That law, passed early in 2011, was—at least according to Congress, the FDA, many large food businesses, and food-safety activists—a bold move that would prevent many cases of foodborne illnesses from ever happening once the law took effect.
“FSMA has been a centerpiece of our work to help ensure food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses through the use of science and risk-based standards,” current FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement announcing the agency’s plans this week. “The blueprint we release today represents the next stage in this process[.]”
That blueprint describes vague efforts to “leverage[e] technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food system,” which suggests the agency will ramp up its own use of technology to limit the spread of foodborne illnesses and may require food businesses to do the same.
Response to the blueprint has been muted this week.
“Now that the blueprint document is out, it is clear that parts of the project are not yet clear,” Food Safety News reported this week after reviewing the document.
While details are lacking, we can look outside the FDA’s own words to learn more about the blueprint’s proposed approach.
In 2018, Frank Yiannas, then Walmart’s top food-safety official, published an excellent article in MIT’s Innovations, “A New Era of Food Transparency Powered by Blockchain,” that features some of the same details as this week’s FDA blueprint, including using blockchain to improve food traceability. In the “new era” article, Yiannas—who’s since left Walmart and now, not coincidentally, heads the FDA’s food-policy work—describes how using blockchain reduced the amount of time it took Walmart to trace the origins of a single package of sliced mangoes back to the farm on which the mangoes were grown, from more than 162 hours to 2.2 seconds. That change suggests how technology can dramatically improve the ability to trace and halt the sources of foodborne illness outbreaks rapidly and effectively.
While that’s really great for Walmart and consumers—and bad for foodborne illness—I have a couple of concerns about the approach. And it turns out my concerns are shared by some commenters w
Article from Latest – Reason.com