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Food Product Tracing Technology Capabilities and Interoperability

Award No.: 
Principal Investigator: 
Tejas Bhatt; Jennifer (Previous PI) McEntire
PI Organization: 
Institute of Food Technologists; Institute of Food Technologists
Despite the best efforts of food safety professionals, contaminated food continues to enter the food supply. It is imperative that contaminated food be removed from the supply chain as quickly as possible to protect public health and stabilize markets. In addition to findings highlighted in the March, 2009, Office of Inspector General report Traceability in the Food Supply Chain, numerous outbreaks have demonstrated that expeditious identification (and removal) of potentially contaminated products is not currently possible. The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) is a leader in food product tracing, having delivered a landmark product tracing report to FDA in September, 2009. IFT also conducted a mock traceback/trace forward of a tomato supply chain, and proposes expanding on the findings of that work to understand the capability of currently available technologies to predict the downstream consequences of an upstream event, or the likely upstream source of contamination given a downstream event, and explore the interoperability of currently available technologies. IFT, a not-for-profit scientific society with more than 18,000 individual members working throughout the farm-to-table food system in industry, government, and academia, is uniquely positioned to bring together food system stakeholders and tackle key product tracing issues in an objective, unbiased way. IFT will compare and contrast seven product tracing technology providers to determine their effectiveness alone and together at better securing the food supply. IFT will secure supply chain data for at least one complex product and at least one product with a straightforward supply chain. The work will be done in three phases: 1) actual supply chain data for products will be secured, 2) all blinded data for complex product will be provided to product tracing technology providers, 3) each provider will receive only a portion of the simple product data to determine if providers can work collaboratively to effectively track and trace an ingredient through the supply chain. This study will also further refine and test IFT-coined product tracing terms, Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and Key Data Elements (KDEs). As a result of this 18-month work, IFT will determine: (1) Critical points throughout the food supply chain where product tracing data must be collected, and the appropriate data elements to collect. The current capabilities of product tracing technologies, (2) The ability of product tracing technology providers to work collaboratively to trace products, and (3) Ways to further develop product tracing systems to increase interoperability and utility.
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