More than 50 volunteers are involved with five panels overseeing and advising the pilot projects, he said. An oversight panel includes members of the food industry, state and federal officials, consumer groups, academia and consultants. A state traceback investigation panel includes state public health officials and a produce panel is comprised of volunteers from all parts of the produce supply chain. A processed food panel also draws from all parts of the food chain. A cost panel includes economists, academians and consultants.
Bhatt said more than 200 different companies were interested in providing technology for the traceability pilot. Bhatt is responsible for narrowing that list down to a manageable number.
“I’m in the process of creating a technology panel to evaluate some the applications we received,” he said.
He said about three to five technology providers per pilot are expected to be chosen.
He noted that some elements of the Food Safety Modernization Act may or may not include regulations about traceability. By January of this year, the FDA is expected to produce a list of high-risk food that could be subject to a separate traceability standard.
“That is up to the FDA and it is not our job to identify (them),” he said.
He said that the IFT will deliver its report on the traceability projects to the FDA by June. The FDA will use that report to make recommendations to Congress to establish a more effective food product tracing system.
Regulations could include some kind of phase-in period and include provisions on data capture and data sharing.
By January of 2013, the FDA is mandated to publish record-keeping requirements in the Food Safety Modernization Act.