Everything you need to know about the FDA’s proposed food traceability rule

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a proposed rule to establish traceability recordkeeping requirements for certain foods. The proposal applies to those who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods designated for inclusion on the Food Traceability List (FTL).

The proposed recordkeeping requirements stipulate that companies must disclose Key Data Elements (KDEs) associated with various Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). Each CTE is a specific step in getting a product from the field or processing plant to the customer.

The KDEs for each event vary based on the organization’s position in the supply chain and will require reference to a traceability lot code. Growing area coordinates, location identifiers and descriptions, quantity and unit measures, and the date and time of packaging are examples of required KDEs.

The food traceability rule contains a list of foods, including cheese, seafood, fruit, vegetables and herbs. One of the biggest challenges is not only that foods on the FTL are considered, but also any foods that contain them as ingredients.

The new requirements would help the FDA rapidly and effectively identify recipients of those foods to prevent or mitigate foodborne illness outbreaks.

Greater transparency in food systems

The food traceability rule is available for public comment until Feb. 22. Following the announcement of the proposed rule, Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for Food Policy and Response, briefed authorities from 33 countries on the importance of traceability and transparency in food systems. According to Yiannas, “transparency will lead to efficiencies, greater sustainability, greater safety, consumer confidence and trust.”

Yiannas also predicts more changes in the food system will arise over the next 10 years than we’ve seen in the past 20 or 30.

What food manufacturers can do

As the frequency of foodborne illnesses rise and more regulations are implemented, food companies that continue to seamlessly comply with FDA will keep regulators satisfied and consumers safe.

While the FDA only encourages the voluntary use of these practices, it’s important that food makers begin crafting or refining their compliance plans now. By incorporating these practices as if they are a requirement, manufacturers will have an easier and longer transition period. By increasing food traceability and transparency, manufacturers can remain confident knowing they are providing safe and sustainable food to consumers – and at the same time precluding regulatory sanctions, lawsuits and damaging publicity.

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