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FDA Considering New Food Tracing Guidelines

In a November 13, 2009 press release, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a food safety report from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) recommending objectives be set to improve tracking on global food supply chains. The IFT is a nonprofit scientific society focusing on the science of food. This report was commissioned by the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in 2008.

Since food can become contaminated at any point in the supply chain, the improved ability to trace the movement of food products will allow the FDA and other agencies to more quickly identify the source of contaminated foods and thus hopefully reduce the instances of illnesses in consumers.

According to WorldPoultry.net, the recommendations from the IFT and their expert panel include basic plans to integrate and update food tracing systems. Suggestions include: use of electronic data systems for data transfer, comprehensive record keeping to allow linking of information with partners, standardization of formats of information. As elementary as some of these tasks sound, partners in food production and supply include a diverse, global group including farm workers, shippers, importers, wholesalers, retailers, government agencies and consumers. It will be a large task to develop a system to allow information from each of these groups to be available to all the others.

The improved ability to track and pinpoint the origin of food borne diseases will of course enable the FDA to "get risky products off the market faster," notes the FDA press release. This report is only part of the record the FDA will consider when, as meat international.com reports, the FDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service will hold a public meeting on food product tracing in Washington, D.C., on December 9 and 10, 2009. The agencies will be seeking written input from stakeholders on improving the food tracing system.   

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