US – The United States Food and Drug Administration has embarked on the second phase of its Seafood Pilot program designed to improve the agency’s ability to quickly and efficiently identify imported seafood products that may pose a threat to public health.

According to a statement from the Agency, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) Imported Seafood Pilot Program is scheduled to run from February 1, 2021 through July 31, 2021.

FDA notes that improving capacity and effectiveness of food safety checks on imported sea food is especially important since the United States imports upwards of 94 percent of its seafood supply.

With seafood being processed outside the United States, concern for the safety is high as seafood is a major route for a number of food borne infections including listeriosis and Vibrio infections.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is believed to be responsible for about 35,000 human infections each year in the United States and has been the leading cause of foodborne infections in China since the 1990s.

The huge amount of seafood imported into the county and its propensity to carry pathogens created a need for a fast and more effective way of detecting food safety at the port of entry.

In response to this need, the FDA in 2019, launched the first phase of the pilot, an analytical proof of concept, to examine the use of Machine Learning (ML) to target violative seafood shipments.

The analysis demonstrated the potential for AI to assist FDA in ensuring the security and safety of the nation’s food supply, specifically imported seafood.

Leveraging on the success of the first program, data from this pilot program will be studied and used to further evaluate the utility of AI in support of import targeting.

This according to FDA may ultimately help implement an AI model to target high-risk seafood products.

Additionally,  pilot program will help the agency not only gain valuable experience with new powerful AI-enabled technology but also add to the tools used to determine compliance with regulatory requirements and speed up detection of public health threats.

Following completion of the pilot, FDA will communicate its findings to promote transparency and facilitate dialogue on how new and emerging technologies can be harnessed to solve complex public health challenges.

The FDA is also expanding its use of new smarter tools and approaches to help inform its oversight of foods and help ensure a strong and resilient food system.   

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