WASHINGTON – The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will develop a “Blueprint for a New Era of Smarter Food Safety” for how the agency applies new and emerging technologies to advance food safety.

Traceability, digital technologies and evolving food business models are among the areas the blueprint will address, the agency explained, and a public meeting scheduled for later this year will be a platform for stakeholders to share ideas about the agency’s strategy. FDA said “…we’re announcing a ‘New Era of Smarter Food Safety’ to augment our efforts implementing important FSMA requirements while also leveraging, among other things, the use of new and emerging technologies.”

In the area of food traceability, the agency seeks to transition to digital tracking from the paper-based systems currently in use throughout food supply chains.

“The use of new and evolving digital technologies may play a pivotal role in tracing the origin of a contaminated food to its source in minutes, or even seconds, instead of days or weeks, when contamination does occur,” the agency said. “Access to information during an outbreak about the origin of contaminated food will help us conduct more timely root cause analysis and apply these learnings to prevent future incidents from happening in the first place.”

Other digital technologies FDA is considering include blockchain, sensors, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. Officials propose an assessment of how these technologies and others will help create a more digital and transparent food safety system. As part of this strategy, FDA will conduct a new pilot that leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to review imported foods at US ports of entry.

“The number of import food lines is increasing year after year and applying the best predictive and analytical tools will help ensure we’re targeting the greatest risks to protect consumers,” FDA said. “This pilot will build upon FDA initiatives already under way, which are also looking at how use of these new technologies may be able to help us continue meeting our public health mission.”

Finally, FDA will look for opportunities to collaborate with stakeholders in the e-commerce space for food to account for the increase in home delivery of foods. “These evolving business models present food safety challenges as well as novel considerations around regulatory framework and oversight at the federal, state and local level,” FDA noted. “Our Blueprint will discuss areas for collaboration in this space as we work to identify the appropriate standard of care in this rapidly growing sector.”