Food Safety Pilot Projects Announced

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) (P.L. 111-353), signed into law by President Obama on January 4, 2011, provided that the Secretary of Health & Human Services must establish a pilot project to research and evaluate methods for rapidly and effectively tracking and tracing processed food or foods to identify the source of an outbreak and the recipients of contaminated food.

More specifically, at least one or more pilot projects had to be done in coordination with the processed food industry, and at least one project had to be done in coordination with the processor or distributors of raw agricultural commodities such as fruits and vegetables. The projects are required to reflect the diversity of the food supply, and must include at least three different types of food that have been the subject of significant outbreaks during the five year period preceding the FSMA. Foods that were the subject of significant outbreak in recent years include:

  • Spinach & leafy greens
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggs

The FSMA requires that the Secretary report the findings of the pilot project no later than 18 months after the effective date of the Act. On September 7, 2011, the Food & Drug Administration announced that under an existing contract the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific society consisting of professionals engaged in food science, food technology, and related professions, will carry out the pilot projects at the direction of FDA.

According to the FDA Press Release:

After the pilots are completed and additional data is gathered, the FDA will initiate rulemaking on recordkeeping requirements for high-risk foods to facilitate tracing. The FDA must define high-risk foods, considering such factors as the known risks of a food based on foodborne illness data, the likelihood that a particular food has a high potential risk for contamination, and the likely severity of an illness attributed to a particular food. The FDA will hold three public meetings during the comment period on the proposed rule.

 Keeping an eye on these upcoming pilot projects and the subsequent meetings will be useful for anyone staying atop of food safety concerns.