Product tracing key to reducing salmonella risks

Posted by Josette Dunn on 27th August 2010

The recent Salmonella outbreak in eggs in the U.S highlights a crucial need for an effective product tracing system. According to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), a nonprofit scientific society focusing on the science of food, a product tracing system would make it possible to identify food-borne illness outbreaks earlier as well as contain the outbreak faster.A report issued earlier this year from the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended guidelines that would establish a comprehensive product tracing system to track the movement of food products effectively from farm to point of sale or service.

“Product tracing is a critical part of the food safety legislation that is currently under review because it serves to protect and improve the food supply, not only here in the United States but the throughout the global food system,” said IFT Vice President Will Fisher.

The recommendations from IFT and the expert panel include:

* Creation of a standard list of key data or information to be collected
* Standardization of formats for expressing the information,
* Identification of the points along the supply chain, internally and between partners, where information needs to be captured
* Comprehensive record keeping that allows the linking of information both internally and with partners
* Use of electronic systems for data transfer
* Inclusion of traceability as a requirement within audits
* Required training and education on what compliance entails

The report concludes that setting clear objectives for those in the food supply chain is the most appropriate approach to effective product tracing. Principally the system should be simple, user friendly and globally accepted, as well as have the ability to leverage existing industry systems.

The FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition commissioned IFT to conduct this study on traceability in the food system. The study authors, including experts from academia, industry, and government, collected information from 58 food companies involved in produce, packaged consumer goods, processed ingredients, distribution, foodservice, retail, and animal feed. The analysis included a review of diverse product tracing methods, practices in non-food industries, and standards and regulations pertaining to traceability worldwide. In addition, IFT experts proposed changes in current systems and practices to help track the movement of food products from farm to table to ultimately protect public health.

“The safety of the food supply requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort among all stakeholders throughout the system from farm to fork including growers, farm workers, packers, shippers, transporters, importers, wholesalers, retailers, government agencies, as well as consumers,” according the panel’s findings. Through a concerted effort, product tracing can help protect the public health, boost consumer confidence, and manage costs faced by affected industries in the supply chain following a food safety incident.