of Article: http://techinsider.nextgov.com/2009/07/tracingtech_and_social_media.php
07/07/09 03:59 pm ET
administration on Tuesday announced long-desired steps that agencies will
take to help repair the beleaguered
food safety system, including the creation of a nationwide trace-back
system to more quickly identify the food-source of an outbreak.
new executive branch actions are a response to a spate of food safety
scares that have occurred since 2006, including the nation's biggest recall
of beef and one of the biggest recalls in history, involving peanut
products. Lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups had been calling for a
national trace-back system for years.
federal, state, and local agencies all play essential roles in managing
outbreaks but lack a unified structure or adequate provisions for sharing
data in an emergency. These limitations make it essential for federal
agencies to improve the traceability of food and the response to outbreaks
of foodborne illness," state the findings of a food safety working
group that President Obama convened in March. Health and Human Services
Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
co-chair the group, since HHS and USDA oversee different parts of the food
group has called for FDA, within three months, to issue draft guidance for
the food industry on steps companies can take to establish product tracing
systems. Within that same time frame, federal agencies will create a new
incident command system that will link all relevant agencies, plus state
and local governments, to tackle outbreaks of foodborne illness. The idea
is that this communications network would harmonize information sharing.
Today, 15 separate federal agencies handle food safety.
addition, social media will continue to be a tool that the government uses,
in the event of an outbreak, for communicating with citizens. An improved,
personal alert system will be made available on a future upgrade of foodsafety.gov to allow consumers to
subscribe to recall notifications. The first stage of the process will be
complete within 90 days, according to today's announcement.