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RFID Live 2023 - Tagging & Tracing Food

Updated: May 12, 2023

This week, I was grateful to deliver opening comments at a session on food at the RFID Live conference by way of video, as I wasn't able to join in person.

I thought I shared the brief comments I made, which you will find below. Take a look and, remember, TOGETHER, we CAN create a safer, smarter, and more transparent food system.


Good morning. My name is Frank Yiannas, immediate past Deputy Commissioner for Food at the US FDA. In humility, I’m often referred to as the architect of FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food safety. And important to today’s discussion, often credited for FDA’s Final Food Traceability rule, which will go into effect January of 2026. So, while I couldn’t be with you today in person, I appreciate the opportunity to share a few words with you by video. Why? Well, it’s because the discussions you will be having today are, in my view, critical. Let me say that again, critical, to the future of a safer, more efficient, and sustainable food system. And there aren’t too many topics more important than food, as food security is national security.

Let’s face it, these are challenging times in our nation and in the world as the global food system faces unprecedented headwinds. And these are challenging times as we find ourselves re-evaluating how to best achieve our mission to ensure consumers have access to safe and available food. The sheer scope and scale of the global food system is daunting. On top of that, we’re facing a multitude of new pressures, whether it’s emerging food safety risks, labor shortages, supply chain bottlenecks, effects of climate change, regional conflicts, or inflationary headwinds…just to name a few. But these challenges give birth to opportunity. They shape a vision of what the future could be, looking beyond what we currently do to what we CAN do in the future with new and emerging technologies such as RFID. The greatest visionaries throughout history – be they world leaders, architects, or scientists – all forged a path to a future they could only imagine, a path that led to innovations in technology and thought that became a reality for those who followed. So today, I’m asking YOU to do the same. I want you to imagine a future in which all the information we need about food or how it is being produced is available to us at the speed of thought. I’m asking you to imagine a future in which the global food system is so transparent and data-informed that we can immediately trace a food’s journey to its origin in seconds – not days.

And we’ll know more than where it simply came from; we’ll know exactly how it was produced and handled at each step of the way. And we will also know the impact that any disruptions related to that food will have on the food system and, ultimately, its safety and availability to consumers.

But to achieve this, we’ll all need to work together on data standards, such as through groups like GS1 and FDA’s key data elements, critical tracking events, and traceability lot codes to speak a universal language of food transparency

And we’ll have to leverage new and emerging technologies such as RFID. So thank you for what you’re doing to take technologies such as RFID out of the research lab, move it beyond a proof of concept or pilot, and actually begin to adopt and scale it in the real-world.

By doing so, you’re ensuring that consumers have access to a smarter, safer, and more sustainable food system for generations to come. And at the end of the day, I can’t think of too many things that are more important than that. Thank you.

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