FDA’s new blueprint for a safer food system

The Food and Drug Administration looks to keep pace with an ever-changing food system using new technologies.

The administration has a new blueprint for the next 10 years to create a more digital, traceable, and safer food system. Frank Yiannas, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, says that modern times require modern approaches.

“We are talking about it at the U.S. FDA as a new era of smarter food safety... Let me reassure you, it’s not a tagline or slogan,” Yiannas states. “It’s truly and genuinely a new way of looking and trying to solve some of the public health challenges that remain ahead of us.”

He says that the new goals prioritize tracking, tracing, and active monitoring of the food supply using new technologies.

“We’ve seen great advancements, and a lot of interest in sensor technology, obviously, real time monitoring... we’ve seen great interest in advancement in IOT, connecting things more digitally,” he notes.

He says that the agency is exploring more ways to utilize blockchain technology in the food supply and is researching AI tools.

According to Yiannas, “Machine learning could increase our chances of finding a violator shipment by 300 percent. That’s a whopping increase of predictive capability of finding a container that had violator food products.”

However, advancing food safety requires participation all along the food chain, from farm gate to consumer. He says that it is important to create shared value for farmers looking to adopt new technologies.

“If you start educating and creating it in a way so that farmers can benefit, meaning that if there is a food scare, their livelihoods won’t be falsely incriminated if they continue to sell goods, or it hasn’t emerged yet but can you facilitate farmer payments. Farmers are very interested in getting paid quickly. So, you create shared value for the farmer,” he adds.

He also says that farmers and processors can benefit from technology that reduces shipping time and helps customers better understand where their food comes from.