The retail grocery business has long operated largely through inertia. Innovations in other retail channels often have a hard time catching on with supermarket operators. Think ecommerce and how it took a worldwide pandemic for the sector to really engage the technology. Many food retailers just don’t like to change.

Unless the industry is forced to. And that’s exactly what’s happening with food safety right now.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011, represents a significant milestone in the United States’ approach to food safety.

With the primary goal of preventing foodborne illnesses and ensuring the safety of the nation’s food supply, FSMA introduced a comprehensive set of regulations and standards.

Globalization: A modern food safety challenge

The landscape of the food system has undergone a profound transformation during the last few decades. Globalization of food production, distribution and consumption created an intricate web of interconnected entities.

Food is now sourced from almost all parts of the world, making the supply chain longer and more complex. While this globalization has facilitated access to diverse and exotic food products (think jackfruit all year long), it has also increased the potential for contamination and the risk of foodborne pathogens. FSMA addresses these challenges by introducing measures to ensure the safety of food at every stage of the supply chain.

Prior to FSMA, the focus for food safety was placed on responding to contamination incidents after they occurred, rather than preventing them from happening in the first place. The regulatory framework needed to evolve to meet the challenges posed by the changing nature of the food system.

FSMA introduced a paradigm shift by incorporating science-based preventive measures, risk assessment and risk management strategies into the regulatory framework. This modernization was essential to ensure the agility and effectiveness of the food ecosystem in the face of emerging risks, including:

The cost of foodborne illnesses

  • Product recalls
  • Medical expenses
  • Legal liabilities
  • Damage to the reputation of food producers

FSMA: A modern solution

FSMA recognized the economic imperative of preventing foodborne illnesses and introduced measures to reduce the economic burden associated with outbreaks. By promoting a preventive approach and encouraging industry compliance, FSMA sought to minimize the economic impact of food safety incidents.

This article is an excerpt from the February 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Navigating Change feature and more in the digital edition here.