US Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for food policy and response Frank Yiannas has briefed the Asia Pacific market on the importance of traceability and transparency in food systems.
Yiannas addressed around 200 attendees from 33 countries, primarily made up of Australian and New Zealand participants, on the online event held on 20 November.
He was joined by Mark Booth, CEO of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), Ram Akella from Woolworths and co-chair of the National GS1 Traceability Advisory Group (NGTAG), and Maria Palazzolo, CEO of GS1 Australia.
Yiannas predicts there will be more changes in the food system over the next 10 years than what has been seen in the past 20 or 30, and says to succeed in modern times, the industry will need modern approaches.
“This is not a tagline or slogan but is truly is a new way of thinking and new way of working,” he said.
“The big picture is that we have to bend the curve of foodborne illness and provide safe and sustainable food for consumers worldwide. Food safety is mainly about public health, but it's also about consumer trust.”
“GS1 has been a critical partner for me, both in my many years in the private sector and now in the public sector. They've done ground-breaking work paving the way for what I believe is a new future where foods will be tracked and monitored from farm to plate, no matter where they're produced in the world.”
Yiannas presented an FDA initiative called the New Era of Smarter Food Safety, as well as a proposed food traceability rule, which is now out for public comment. It includes a list of foods for which there would be additional record-keeping requirements, including cheese, seafood, fruit, vegetables and herbs.
“We're accepting comments until January 21, although the comment period may be extended,” said Yiannis.
“A significant feature of the proposal is the term ‘traceability lot code’ and we are advocating that the traceability lot shouldn’t change unless the food is actually transformed to becomes different, rather than just changing hands.”
GS1 Australia CEO Maria Palazzolo said the subject of traceability was now having the focus it deserves.
“Consumers are becoming much smarter about the products they’re purchasing and consuming. They want more information. They want to know that their products are safe and that companies that produce those products have good traceability systems in place,” said Palazzolo.
“We believe it is GS1's responsibility to help industry have the ability and the tools, and by using global data standards, to have true interoperability that will provide that confidence to consumers.
“We’re committed to support every organisation that has taken traceability as a serious initiative.”
FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said the FDA briefing demonstrated a good example of international collaboration.
“Despite the distance between our countries and different regulatory agencies around the globe, there are common challenges and lessons that can be learned in how those challenges are addressed in different economies,” Booth said.
“In the Australia and New Zealand context, the landscape in which the food supply operates has changed remarkably since FSANZ was established just over 20 years ago.
“There’s also been an increased pace of technological change and industry innovation, plus significant technical change in traceability.”
For more information about the proposed food traceability rule and to submit comments, visit the FDA site for more information.