With the support of retail food groups and others, a new bill designed to address implementation and compliance challenges with the FDA’s Food Traceability Rule was introduced in the House of Representatives in March. The Food Traceability Enhancement Act would make changes to the rule that the sponsors say are needed to help the industry comply with FSMA Section 204.

The proposed legislation would reduce the time required to keep product traceability records from two years to one year. It would also mandate a series of pilot projects to “measure the effectiveness of foodborne illness outbreak investigations conducted without the use of traceability lot code information; and identify and evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of low-cost food tracing technologies.” Lastly, the bill delays start of section 204 compliance until two years after the completion of the pilot projects.

FMI – The Food Industry Association, National Grocers Association and other trade groups welcomed the legislation, saying it would make targeted improvements to the rule that are necessary for more feasible industry compliance while continuing to enhance food safety.

“While we support the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed by Congress in 2011 with FMI’s support, the Food Traceability Rule implementing Section 204 of the law is overly complex and must be fixed, as implementation of the requirements set forth by FDA go well beyond that which Congress directed and are so burdensome as to not be achievable given currently available technology and other resources. The current rule will demand tremendous investments of time and resources across the entire food industry for recordkeeping, data management and systems changes, without necessarily improving the timeliness of food safety investigations or preventing tainted products from entering the supply chain,” said FMI President and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin.

Laura Strange, Chief Communications & Engagement Officer and Senior Vice President at NGA, added; “Grocers are a customer’s last touch, and often times the face of our vastly diverse and complex food supply chain. Ensuring the safety of the food provided to consumers and preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses are top of mind for independent community grocers and the wholesalers that serve them. While we appreciate FDA’s efforts, implementation of the Food Traceability Rule, as outlined in Section 204 of the law, unfortunately does not take an approach that provides flexibility for smaller operators as intended by Congress. We remain concerned that smaller retailers will be disproportionately impacted by this final rule as it will be expensive to implement and require additional labor that many stores cannot spare. Given the vast scope and complexities of this rule, substantial investments of time and resources across the food industry, including for recordkeeping, data management, and system changes will need to be made.” 

This article is an excerpt from the May 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire FSMA 204: Navigating the Future feature and more in the digital edition here.