FDA requires food supply records

FDA requires food supply records

The Food and Drug Administration will require food manufacturers and transporters to keep records of all products they handle, such as fruits, vegetables, bottled water and baby formula, to protect the U.S. food supply from natural and terrorist threats. The move could have an impact on the data systems used to track food.

FDA released the final rule as part of bioterrorism legislation passed in response to the 2001 anthrax attacks. The agency also proposed guidance it will follow when requesting access to the records, which will provide a trace-back and trace-forward mechanism in case of contamination.

"Publication of this recordkeeping rule represents a milestone in U.S. food safety and security," said Health and Human Services secretary Tommy Thompson. "Our nation is now more prepared than ever before to protect the public against threats to the food supply."

Companies that manufacture, process, pack, transport, distribute, receive, hold or import food must identify the immediate previous source and subsequent recipient of all food. Farms, restaurants and food banks are exempt.

Food companies, which must comply within 12 months, may keep records in paper or electronic format, but must be able to produce them for FDA, if necessary, within four hours. Many in the food industry already use various data systems to track their food products in order to meet their own specific needs. However, compliance with the rule may require new protocols and database systems.

Last week, Thompson said he worried daily about a possible attack on the nation's food supply. 'For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do.'

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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