The Food Industry in 2017: What's next?

by, Clear Labs

2016 was a historic year for food. Unprecedented regulations, breakthrough research and advancements in technologies, and major recalls and safety issues have set 2017 up to be an instrumental year in shaping the evolving food industry.

Here is a highlight of what happened in 2016:

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law in 2011. The Act’s provisions are the most significant reforms to occur in the U.S. food system in 70 years, shifting the food safety model from reactive to proactive.

It’s coming at the right time, as high-profile recalls plagued 2016. While the Chipotle E.Coli was declared over in February, Geoff Williams noted that food recalls seem to be on the rise with 25 issued during the month of January.

On the hot topic of GMOs, Obama signed the controversial national GMO Labeling Bill into law. The bill caused division among the nation, amid mixed reactions of concernquestions, and conciliation. You can read more on the law, and its consequences and considerations here.

Food tech also hit the ground running in 2016 – from precision health, to cellular agriculture, Next-generation Sequencing, to mini-farm robots. And of course, CRISPR, which filled the news cycleraised questions about regulation, piqued interest in potentially innumerable opportunities, and challenged our understanding of GMOs and food production.

So, what’s next in 2017?

The future is in food. Personalized nutrition is going to make leaps and bounds.

As our VP of Product, Maria Fernandez-Guajardo, has said: “Precision medicine —a groundbreaking approach to disease prevention and treatment based on people’s individual differences in environment, genes and lifestyle—is a reality.” Each person has a unique microbiome composition (the genes of bacteria that populate our bodies) that changes in response to external factors like diet, health, and environment.

In the next few years, just as having our genomes sequenced for individualized health treatments is becoming more standard, applying the technological and research tools in better understanding our food and its effects on our microbiomes will allow our the microbiome to be sequenced for a-la-carte, individualized diets.

To keep pace with the rapid changes that technological advancements are making in this area, expect to see manufacturers pour more dollars into research and tech in this area.

The food industry will crack down even harder on food safety.

FSMA enforcement and numerous high-profile recalls in 2016 mean big business in 2017 in food safety and the systems, processes, and technology that support it. Technologies like Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) that allow us to sequence DNA and RNA much more quickly and cheaply than the previously used Sanger sequencing has revolutionized the study of genomics and molecular biology.

This high quality and inexpensive one-stop shop test for food safety, supplier verification, and R&D data, will start to see higher adoption rates and greater testing scale.

Regulations will be vital, yet messy.

With Trump highlighting “specific regulations to be eliminated” under his new economic plan, current regulations, new technologies, and food departments remain uncertain.

The "FDA Food Police,” and the head the United States Department of Agriculture, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the head of the FDA have yet to be appointed. The enforcement of FSMA, GMO labeling laws, and new technologies like CRISPR are unclear terrains.

Legislation helps determine how the industry will evolve in ways that could change things significantly, so it's time to get involved – and we expect to hear many more speak up – and make your voice hear.

Transparency discussions among industries and consumers will become more nuanced.

There is incremental movement towards transparency. Rather than blanket transparency though (which is hard to define in-and-of of itself), consumers and industry will have to find ways to meet in the middle. With the spectrum of data that NGS offers, manufacturers will label foods in a way that meets consumer demands without breaking the bank.

Super barcoding: Retailers will want Food Safety guarantees from Industry.

Food recalls are disastrous and costly. As the global food safety market grows, and as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), the universal and unbiased test and barcoding technology that verifies food authenticity, allergens, pathogens, microbiome details, and GMO information, will be the future, consumers and retailers will demand it, prompting manufacturers to adopt more detailed labeling to stay competitive in the food game.

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