In the wake of recent recalls the progress of implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) has become more significant. The Pilot Traceability Project was announced as of last week. This project is intended to provide a structure for tracing ingredients back to their source in the event of a recall. Section 204 of FSMA requires the FDA to “establish pilot projects in coordination with the food industry to explore and evaluate methods to rapidly and effectively identify recipients of food to prevent or mitigate a food borne illness outbreak and to address credible threats of serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals as a result of such food being adulterated …or misbranded."

The Pilot projects will be carried out by the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) at the direction of FDA.

A product tracing system involves documenting the production and distribution chain so that a product can be traced back to a common source or forward through distribution channels if there’s evidence of contaminated food.  The actions that follow may include removing the product from the marketplace and alerting the public if it has already been distributed.

The FDA indicated that: “What we’re looking for is a system that is practical, feasible, and rapid,” says Sherri McGarry, senior advisor in FDA’s Office of Foods. “Our No. 1 priority is protecting public health.”

McGarry explained that IFT will work with the key groups that have a stake in this endeavor—food industry, state and federal government agencies, and consumers—in developing the pilot programs. The goal is to include industries that represent the food supply chain, including farms, restaurants, and grocery stores.

The pilot programs will evaluate the types of data that are most needed for tracing, ways to connect the points in the food supply chain, and how quickly data can be made available to FDA. A key goal in the pilot projects will be to explore methods to track food and identify a common source or supplier starting at multiple points of sale. “We’re looking for a system that will allow FDA to quickly connect the dots along the food supply chain,” says McGarry.

Business should keep an on eye on this process as the resulting programs may impose similar requirements on FSMA registrants in the future.