WORLD- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has launched a challenge to spur the development of affordable, tech-enabled traceability tools to help protect people and animals from contaminated foods.

This will also enable the rapid identification of their sources and help remove the contaminated products from the marketplace as quickly as possible. 

 The new era of smarter food safety low or no cost Tech-enabled traceability, advances a goal set forth in the New Era of smarter food safety blueprint, released in July 2020.

This was set up to encourage the development of artistic financial models for low- to no-cost traceability solutions that would enable food producers of all cadres to participate in a scalable, cost-effective way.

FDA acknowledged that tech-enabled traceability is one of the foundational core elements of the New Era initiative.

Digitizing data at no or low cost through the use of creative financial models allows the entire food system to get smarter together,”

Frank Yiannas, deputy FDA commissioner for food policy and response

However, it also noted the affordability barrier for smaller companies which can hinder adoption.

 “Too many Americans suffer from foodborne illnesses every year. Making the food supply more digitally enabled and food more traceable will speed the response to outbreaks and deepen our understanding of what causes them and how to prevent them from happening again.

“One of the FDA’s highest priorities is protecting consumers from foodborne illnesses. We hope to find new, innovative ways to encourage firms of all sizes to voluntarily adopt tracing technologies that can help our nation modernize the way we work together to determine possible sources of foodborne illnesses as quickly as possible to keep Americans safe,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock.

Through this challenge, the agency asked food technology solution providers, public health advocates, entrepreneurs and innovators across the human and animal food supply chain to come up with food traceability solutions that utilize economic models that are economical, with costs that are proportional to the benefits received and can scale to encourage widespread adoption.

 “Having digital information easily accessible is a key priority of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety. Through this initiative, we are committed to helping ensure that even small companies can use and benefit from new tracing technologies,

“Digitizing data at no or low cost through the use of creative financial models allows the entire food system to get smarter together,” said Frank Yiannas, deputy FDA commissioner for food policy and response.

In this regard, International System of Units (SI) US has published a new implementation protocol for the grocery and food service industries, apprizing on how extended product data can be captured using Electronic Product Code-enabled/Radio Frequency Identification (EPC/RFID).  

 The document, GSI US EPC Extended Attributes Implementation Guideline for the Food Industry, renders direction for leveraging EPC/RFID technology to track cases and cartons for enhanced traceability and food safety, enabling better recall and freshness management and operational efficiencies.

 EPC/RFID solutions provide inventory visibility without line-of-sight scanning, which can save time and labor.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advocating for tech-enabled traceability to improve food safety through the New Era of Smarter Food Safety blueprint,

“The guideline can help industry leaders extend their investments in GS1 Standards through RFID, which will ultimately accelerate data capture, help them adapt to shifting consumer demands and support traceability during this critical moment in food safety,” said Angela Fernandez, vice president, community engagement, GS1 US.

The food industry has been leveraging the GS1-128 barcode on cases and cartons to encode a product’s Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) and traceability data (e.g., batch/lot, date, serial number and net weight) for many years.

The new guideline was formulated to operate within current GS1 Standards for encoding this product data in an EPC scheme, better enabling the digital communication of traceability data via EPC/RFID at each point across the supply chain.

Encoding additional data such as batch/lot number and date into the EPC/RFID tag memory facilitates use cases such as removing products from a recalled lot or rotating products efficiently to ensure freshness.