Here’s a look at articles and other resources for the week of Feb. 8 highlighted by the QA staff.
The research from Precedence Research pointed to factors such as an increase in foodborne illnesses and increase in sales of processed or packaged foods in certain countries.
Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), issued a statement based on the info released by USDA.
The data dashboards will offer timely food supply info during crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Produce Marketing Association submitted comments on the rule that aims to to establish recordkeeping requirements for foods on the Food Traceability List.
The organic certifiers were recognized for regular, candid discussions with NOP accreditation managers and auditors on a wide range of issues and day-to-day operations.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Effective oversight and enforcement of the Department of Agriculture organic regulations start with robust communication. In 2020, four certifiers stood out for their open, consistent and effective communications with the National Organic Program (NOP). These certifiers held regular, candid discussions with NOP accreditation managers and auditors on a wide range of issues and day-to-day operations.
This higher level of engagement provides NOP staff increased real-time insight into the hands-on application of the USDA organic regulations. “The extra effort by these certifiers gave us practical insights and builds consistency in how certifiers apply the USDA organic regulations to farms and businesses located around the world," said NOP Accreditation Division Director Robert Yang.
For their outstanding contributions to work in organic certification, the 2021 National Organic Program Director’s Award winners are:
- Agricultural Services Certified Organic (ASCO) - Salinas, Calif.
- Certification of Environmental Standards GmbH (CERES) - Happurg, Germany
- CCOF Certification Services (CCOF) - Santa Cruz, Calif.
- Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) - Viroqua, Wis.
The NOP develops and enforces voluntary standards for organically produced agricultural products sold in the United States. Established by Congress to operate as a public-private partnership with third party organizations called certifiers, the NOP accredits and oversees certifiers who have inspectors located around the world. Certifiers play a critical role in protecting the USDA organic seal and supporting farmers who integrate biological and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
NEWARK, Del. — The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) submitted comments on the proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rule Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods. The intention of the rule is to establish recordkeeping requirements for foods on the Food Traceability List (FTL) designed to improve the traceability information during foodborne illness outbreaks and to increase the speed and precision of trace-back and trace-forward investigations for recall events.
The comments put forth by PMA were informed by the challenges the industry has faced in obtaining critical tracing information and the advancements in traceability approaches that industry has already begun to implement. PMA supports FDA efforts to use the proposed rule to reduce the harm to consumers caused by foodborne pathogens and limit adverse impacts on industry sectors affected by the outbreaks by improving the ability to trace the movement quickly and efficiently through the supply chain of foods recognized as causing illness, identify and remove products from the marketplace, and develop mitigation strategies to prevent future contamination.
Overall, PMA commends the FDA on release of the proposed rule that it believes will strengthen the industry’s record keeping requirements for certain foods, some of which were linked to outbreaks of foodborne illness. The net result will be much stronger consumer confidence in products produced by the fresh produce and broader food industry.
- Clarity on what people, foods and food establishments will be exempted from the rule.
- Clarity on a number of definitions in the rule, including:
Food Traceability List
Nonprofit Food Establishment
Physical Location Name
Point of Contact
Retail Food Establishment
Traceability Product Description
Traceability Product Identifier
- Further FDA guidance on the program records required for products on the Food Traceability List.
- Concerns that information received from the first receiver will be difficult to capture and verify, or may be inaccurate.
- Recommendation to use the case-level GTIN lot number to identify the originator.
- Data privacy and corporate confidentiality concerns generated by asking the first receiver to share data that is not their own.
- Records required when receiving or transforming foods on the Food Traceability List.
- Recordkeeping requirements for foods subject to a kill step.
- The circumstances in which FDA will modify requirements or exempt a food or type of entity from requirements.
Editor's Note: Read our story on potential supply chain trends for 2021, including how COVID-19 has changed farm-to-fork.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, as governments issued lockdown orders and stay-at-home advisories, grocery store shelves went bare. Shoppers scooped up flour and yeast, canned goods, frozen vegetables, meats and any other staples that they were concerned could run out before they got the chance to return to the stores.
With few exceptions, there were no real concerns about food shortages in the United States, said Jayson Lusk, professor and head of Purdue’s Department of Agricultural Economics. However, there was no easy way for consumers or policymakers to know that since data that could be used to calculate the risk to the country’s food supply is spread piecemeal across multiple government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This experience motivated Lusk to lead a partnership among Purdue University, the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and Microsoft to create open-access online dashboards that can track and report the factors that could lead to food supply disruptions during national and global emergencies.
“The data are not always user-friendly for people unless you’re a specialist and know where to go to find it all,” Lusk said. “There were disruptions for consumers that didn’t have to occur. In the early aftermath of that, I was part of a group brainstorming the types of information that needs to be accessible and what we can do to help the food and agriculture sectors, government and consumers understand what’s going on during an emergency. We believe these dashboards can help.”
FFAR is providing more than $220,000 to Purdue, with Microsoft matching those funds and supplying cloud technology, business intelligence, artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for the project. The total investment in the project is more than $500,000.
“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need for easily accessible data on potential vulnerabilities in the food supply chain,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of FFAR. “This research is exposing those vulnerabilities in real time, providing policymakers and industry with the information needed to prevent bottlenecks and ensure food security.”
While the dashboards are being developed with COVID-19 in mind, they will be adaptable to any other situation that could cause a food supply disruption. The work will build off the Purdue Food and Agriculture Vulnerability Index, which quantifies the potential risk to the supply of agricultural products because of farm and agricultural worker illnesses from COVID-19.
“There are certainly still concerns about COVID, but the idea is to develop multiple dashboards on different topics so that we’re prepared to respond to a variety of issues that might come up during a large-scale emergency,” Lusk said. “The dashboard we have now is based on publicly available data and only tells you so much. With these new dashboards, we’ll integrate machine learning and make extrapolations to better estimate and predict disruptions in the food supply sector.”
One area that has been a concern during COVID-19 is the meat processing sector, where high rates of COVID-19 among workers can disrupt operations. Lusk said dashboards will zoom in on the county level to show the percentage of residents who are sick and use machine learning to estimate the number of workers in a plant that may be affected or could be in the near future. That information can be useful to health officials and government agencies, who could shift resources to those areas or enact rules to counteract the problems.
The work also offers researchers data to identify the impacts of policy decisions during a pandemic or other type of large-scale emergency.