Despite the potential benefits of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), there are challenges and drawbacks that businesses must navigate. Smaller retailers may find it challenging to absorb the costs associated with compliance, potentially leading to consolidation in the industry or, in some cases, closures. The complexity of FSMA regulations could also pose challenges, particularly for businesses with limited resources.

Navigating the intricacies of compliance may require external support or consultancy, adding to the overall costs.

“As retailers prepare for compliance, it’s clear that operational costs will rise. For the short-term, look for spikes in initial expenses related to compliance, such as consulting fees, system upgrades and software integration. Then you have needed investments in technologies for advanced tracking, staff training on new protocols, and potential recruitment to handle increased workloads. Also, collaborating with traceability-savvy suppliers may further escalate costs. In response to all this, retailers may find themselves reassessing pricing strategies,” said Joe Smirlies, senior vice president of product management at Invafresh.

FSMA Section 204 marks a significant shift in the regulatory landscape for fresh food retailers and supermarkets. While compliance presents challenges in terms of costs and complexity, the potential benefits, including enhanced consumer trust and reduced liability, cannot be overlooked. As businesses navigate this regulatory terrain, a strategic approach to implementation and a proactive commitment to food safety will be instrumental in ensuring long-term success in the ever-evolving fresh food industry.

Groups like FMI are helping their member supermarket operators to understand the impact of FSMA Section 204 by helping them recognize the specific requirements related to recordkeeping, compliance with the law and the overarching goal of enhancing food safety. The implementation of robust recordkeeping practices safeguards public health while protecting the reputation and even viability of businesses in an industry where trust is paramount.

“Our partners and our member companies have developed interdisciplinary teams, so multiple communities within FMI are working on this issue creating multiple tools and resources to assist with compliance and recordkeeping,” said Hilary Thesmar, chief science officer and senior vice president of food and product safety at FMI - The Food Industry Association.

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.