Tom Karst of The Packer writes that teasing the details of a new era of smarter food safety, Food and Drug Administration deputy commissioner for food policy and response Frank Yiannas spoke Sept. 18 at the United Fresh Washington Conference.
And Disney in Orlando before that.
Yiannas said the FDA’s work on produce safety has been front and central to his work since he joined the agency.
He praised the industry for its contribution to food safety and said the public-private partnership on food safety efforts must strengthen even more in what he called a new era of smarter food safety that is set to begin in 2020.
“I was asked by the Commissioner to continue to lead our efforts on modernization,” Yiannas said. “We’ve come a long way since 2011, but there’s still work to be done.”
Tech-enabled traceability and tech-enabled outbreak response will be one area of focus for the new era of smarter food safety, Yiannas said.
While produce has an impressive safety record overall, he said there are weak points in the supply chain.
“What I have learned over the years, and especially from my vantage point with the world’s largest company, is that I do believe the food system’s Achilles heel is traceability and transparency,” he said.
“It seems eerily similar almost a decade later,” he said. “And we still are having to do these overly broad consumer advisories.”
Distributed ledger or blockchain technology can be part of the solution, he said, but that isn’t the focus.
“It is not about the technology— it is about solving some of our many public health challenges,” he said.
Helping efforts to create a culture of food safety among growers, food marketers, and consumers is another element of the new era plan, he said.
“What I’ve learned over the years, is that it’s impossible to make progress without changing and influencing behavior,” he said, noting the importance of “digital prompts” to encourage right behavior.