New Era of Smarter Food Safety: Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response

New era, Food & beverage

The Food and Drug Administration recently released its Blueprint for the New Era of Smarter Food Safety. Over the last several months, we have been breaking down the four core elements to prepare your business for this next step in food safety program improvement.

The focus of the blueprint’s second element, Smarter Tools and Approaches for Prevention and Outbreak Response, identifies the need to research and implement innovative solutions to prevent foodborne illness concerns. It also determines more efficient ways to manage the industry’s response to outbreaks and improve the ability to conduct root cause analysis for future prevention.

The six core segments within the second element

2.1 Invigorate Root Cause Analysis

We know that one of the most critical processes in mitigating food safety risks post-incident is the process of Root Cause Analysis (RCA). The focus of this element is to develop standardized procedures and protocols on how to conduct an RCA. Collaboration and information sharing related to this process will be a priority for all stakeholders like governments, retailers, and producers.

2.2 Strengthen Predictive Analytics Capabilities

Predictive analytics is crucial in moving from reacting to outbreaks to preventing them before they occur. The FDA is making the implementation of these processes a critical priority for the industry. Through the utilization of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these technologies can be used to identify risks and trends before they happen. To truly leverage the available power of big data, the agency will expand the use of information sharing agreements to tap into all available information sources.

2.3 Domestic Mutual Reliance

This segment aims to implement a plan to develop better state and federal mutual reliance and build on existing improvement efforts. The intended purpose is to align requirements and standards through data sharing and develop an integrated emergency and incident response. Additionally, they will create a harmonization of food testing methodologies. By taking this approach, the intention will be to establish a standardized continuum across the organization and interdependent agencies.

2.4 Inspection, Training, and Compliance Tools

This element aims to promote and accelerate the investigating, testing, and implementing innovative processes and technology. This section’s focus is investigating the utilization of virtual inspections and sensor technology to strengthen monitoring preventative control points. Also, there will be a significant emphasis and effort placed on developing online tools to assist in this process.

2.5 Outbreak Response

The New Era of Smarter Food Safety’s goal is to flatten the curve on foodborne illness. To this end, we must utilize all systems, technologies, and resources to improve the recall process. Using standardized tools across local, state, and federal agencies in conjunction with widely accepted strategies for enhanced reporting will streamline the process. Applying non-traditional reporting systems will help to identify issues earlier in the recall process.

2.6 Recall Modernization

To simplify the recall methods for consumers, the FDA and USDA will be blending processes to ensure a consistent and standardized message. The agencies will look to new and innovative ways to get the word out to affected consumers, including developing an app and other notification processes, such as social media, text and email alerts, and digital scan prompts.

The push for modernization

Each organization within the food industry is already required to have a standard process for withdrawal and recall and test effectiveness at least once a year. So why is further modernization important? Understanding that the New Era’s primary goal is to reduce foodborne illness, a critical function is the necessary process of efficient recall and withdrawal procedures. As we have seen consistently, the industry needs to implement better and more effective methods to ensure consumer safety.

Outbreak response is a reactionary measure in response to a series of events that lead to the incident in the first place. In speaking to segment 2.4, organizations will be challenged to implement innovative technologies, such as real-time temperature monitoring sensors that prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. A thorough risk analysis should be conducted to identify those areas that pose hazards that are reasonably likely to happen and those areas that are not currently controlled. For instance, we find that many companies lack preventative controls within their cold chain. They do not have measures in place that address the loss of power in refrigeration units shipping perishable food items, which is a risk that is reasonably likely to occur. Having a truly real-time temperature monitoring program in place to mitigate this type of risk is a smart preventative control measure.

Utilizing innovative solutions to solve the considerable risks of foodborne illness outbreak takes all of us to think differently about how we manage our business processes. Now is the time to investigate, test, and implement state-of-the-art technologies to move your organization from industry-standard to industry-leading.

Has this article challenged the way you were thinking about the New Era of Smarter Food Safety or provided insights you hadn’t previously considered? If so, continue to watch for articles by bookmarking our New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint resource page.

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