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Food Industry Establishes Traceability Research Center

Fungi samples in test tubes (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

Fungi samples (Agricultural Research Service/USDA)

The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) in Chicago unveiled its Global Food Traceability Center to conduct research and develop best practices to identify sources of health problems related to food products. The organization says there currently is no single group that brings together all industry stakeholders to collaborate on finding solutions to these problems.

The Global Food Traceability Center plans to serve as an authoritative source on the subject of food traceability. The center, says IFT, will conduct and collect research on food traceability, turn research findings into practical tools for traceability and collaboration, educate the industry on their availability, and help the industry implement the solutions. The center itself will carry out two benchmark studies, (1) to assess the state of current technologies for tracing food products within companies, and (2) to investigate technologies for tracing food products between companies and in supply chains.

According to the institute, the Global Food Traceability Center is a result of three industry meetings and two pilot studies of food product traceability conducted by IFT at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as required by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. The pilot studies, conducted in 2011 and 2012, conducted 14 mock tracking exercises, tracing products both backward and forward through the supply chain.

The IFT group conducting the pilot studies issued 10 recommendations for FDA and industry to implement a product tracing system, including common standards, record keeping requirements, and technology platform. The IFT paper also recommended that exemptions to record keeping based on risk calculations not be permitted on FDA regulated food products.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says food-borne illnesses affect 48 million or 1 in 6 Americans, causing some 3,000 deaths a year. IFT cites a July 2012 study that the cost of food poisoning totals about $14 billion a year, which covers the medical expenses of the 128,000 people hospitalized for food poisoning. That cost excludes the legal costs and lost sales companies suffer as a result of food-borne illnesses.

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