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Eating contaminated food can be a nasty experience, and finding the source of the contamination is not always easy. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a plan that could reduce the number of foodborne illnesses and deaths in the country. The new Food Traceability Rule covers food from production to supermarkets and restaurants, mandating a standardized record-keeping process. This process assigns a code to potentially riskier foods, such as soft cheeses, eggs, leafy greens, nut butter, and tomatoes, making them more efficiently trackable.

Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration/Youtube

The new rule requires those who manufacture, process, pack, or hold food items included on the Food Traceability List (FTL) to maintain records containing Key Data Elements (KDEs) associated with specific Critical Tracking Events (CTEs). In case of any contamination, this information must be provided to the FDA within 24 hours, enabling faster identification and rapid removal of contaminated food from the market. The rule covers both domestic and foreign firms producing food for U.S. consumption, ensuring that all players in the farm-to-table continuum are in compliance. The compliance date for all entities is Tuesday, January 20, 2026.

The FTL identifies the foods that require additional traceability records, including foods that contain listed foods as ingredients, provided that the listed food remains in the same form (e.g., fresh) as it appears on the list. The rule outlines Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) such as harvesting, cooling, initial packing, first land-based receiving, shipping, receiving, and transformation of food. Each CTE requires different Key Data Elements (KDEs) to be maintained.

The new Food Traceability Final Rule is a key component of the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint and implements the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This rule aligns with current industry best practices, allowing for faster identification and removal of contaminated food from the market, resulting in fewer foodborne illnesses and deaths.

In conclusion, the Food Traceability Rule is an essential step towards ensuring the safety of our food. This new record-keeping process will provide more transparency and accountability in the food supply chain, safeguarding the health of millions of Americans. As consumers, we can all do our part by supporting companies that prioritize food safety and make an effort to comply with the new rule. Let’s work together to create a safer and healthier food environment for everyone.

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