COVID-19 Shows Need for Smart Food Safety

A new FDA blueprint would use blockchain to more easily track and trace food products.

June 03, 2020

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon release its New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, which will outline its plans to create a more digital, traceable and safer food system.

“The challenges that have arisen during the pandemic have made it clear that the actions called for in the blueprint will strengthen how we approach the safety and security of the food supply, not just in the normal course of events but especially in times of crisis,” wrote Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., commissioner of food and drugs, and Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, on the FDA website.

The blueprint will utilize emerging technologies, such as blockchain, for easier tracking and tracing of products throughout the supply chain. “When the agency originally developed the blueprint, we knew that these new technologies could be game changers in facilitating a more rapid traceback of a contaminated food to its source in the event of a foodborne outbreak,” they wrote.

The document also highlights the need for smarter prevention and protection tools for online food orders. “We’ve seen this trend steadily increase over the years, but it has skyrocketed as families sheltering in place order foods from restaurants and grocery stores online and by phone, often for the first time. So, this question becomes even more important—how do we ensure that these foods are produced, packed, and transported safely directly to consumers?” they wrote.

Finally, the guidelines also address the food-safety culture at home, in food facilities and on farms. “The pandemic shined a light on what it truly means to have a food safety culture. It’s about the people who work on farms and in facilities accepting responsibility for producing safe foods and also about keeping those people safe when co-workers are sick,” Hahn and Yiannas wrote. “It’s about educating consumers on the best food safety practices when cooking at home, which more people are doing now. Taking responsibility and protecting each other is not just the foundation of a food safety culture; it mirrors one of the primary lessons from COVID-19, that we—government, industry and consumers—must all work together to help keep each other safe.”