Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Section 204 places a renewed emphasis on preventive controls throughout the entire food supply chain. Fresh food retailers and supermarkets, as key players in this chain, are now required to implement measures that ensure the safety and integrity of the products they source.

This involves a thorough evaluation of suppliers, adherence to strict standards and the establishment of robust traceability systems. This means businesses must invest in rigorous supplier verification processes to ensure that their sources meet the required safety standards. This involves comprehensive assessments of supplier practices and facilities. It also means that enhanced traceability becomes paramount. Retailers need to implement systems that allow for quick identification and removal of contaminated products from the supply chain, minimizing the impact of potential outbreaks.

“Traceability records will tell a retailer which products were received at which stores, by lot codes. This will dramatically increase the precision of recalls for certain lot codes, eliminating the need for a blanket recall of all products in a category, including those that are not included in the recall. This will also accelerate recalls while reducing expense for retailers and wholesalers alike,” said Randy Fields, CEO of ReposiTrak, a retail technology company focused on traceability and compliance.

Compliance with FSMA Section 204 is not without its challenges, and businesses must allocate substantial resources to meet the regulatory requirements. Fresh food retailers may face increased costs related to the implementation of new safety measures, supplier audits, and technology upgrades for traceability. These financial commitments may strain profit margins, especially for smaller businesses. In addition, compliance necessitates a skilled workforce capable of navigating the complexities of food safety regulations. Training existing staff or hiring professionals versed in regulatory compliance becomes a crucial investment.

While the initial costs and efforts associated with compliance may seem burdensome, FSMA Section 204 offers several potential benefits for fresh food retailers and supermarkets. Strict adherence to food safety measures can enhance consumer trust. A positive reputation for safety and quality can be a powerful differentiator in a competitive market. By implementing preventive controls, businesses can reduce the risk of contamination incidents, thereby lowering potential legal liabilities and safeguarding their brand image.

“If retailers choose to expand traceability to other products, as it’s expected many will eventually do, there are opportunities for greater financial accuracy through automatic invoice reconciliation at the time of delivery. This will help retailers identify and compensate for when quantities received don’t match the quantities invoiced, which for some retailers could be multiple millions of dollars a year in overpayment,” said Fields, adding that grocery retailers and wholesalers are already expanding traceability requirements beyond the products on the Food Traceability List.

“Additionally, retailers could work with suppliers to provide sell by or expiration data information, which is not required under FSMA 204, to create better freshness management practices to reduce food waste and create a better shopper experience.”

This article is an excerpt from the March 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Navigating Change Part 2 feature and more in the digital edition here.