Ensuring food safety in fresh food retailing necessitates collaborative efforts and partnerships among stakeholders, including retailers, suppliers, regulators, and consumers.

By fostering open communication, sharing best practices, and aligning objectives, these collaborative initiatives can fortify the resilience of the food supply chain and mitigate the risks posed by foodborne illnesses and contamination incidents.

“We’re constantly learning about new food/pathogen associations and the FDA has indicated that it will update the FTL food list about once every 5 years,” said Ben Miller, executive vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs at The Acheson Group, a global food safety and public health consulting firm. “We’ve seen an increase in Cyclospora infections related to fresh berries in the last few years (fresh berries are not currently an FTL food), and it’s possible that commodities such as this could be added to the FTL food list. If a commodity is added to the list, there is a two-year period to prepare before compliance is required.”

“Conversely, if a food is removed from the FTL list, the need to trace that food ends immediately. That said, we’re seeing more retailers consider tracing all foods that they receive – not just FTL foods. Trying to manage processes by exception can be challenging and by tracing all food received, this creates one consistent process.”

Retailers will likely leverage partnerships with suppliers to implement stringent quality assurance measures, promote transparency and establish robust traceability systems.

Engaging with regulatory agencies, standards organizations and trade groups enables companies to stay abreast of evolving requirements, seek guidance on compliance matters, and advocate for policies that prioritize consumer safety. Additionally, empowering consumers with knowledge and resources empowers them to make informed decision on the food they consume.

“The need to share regulated data between supply chain partners will drive wider adoption of interoperable data standards and exchange protocols,” said Liz Sertl, senior director, supply chain visibility for GS1 US. “Wegmans Food Markets uses standards-based data to improve traceability as required, but also takes it beyond FSMA 204. This regional supermarket chain recognizes the importance of standards to simplify data collection and sharing. The company is implementing GDST (Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability) standards, which are based on GS1 Standards, in its seafood supply chains. This approach provides a common language for seafood suppliers to share data, even between different traceability systems.”

“Wegmans’ adoption of standards allows everyone throughout the supply chain to share data seamlessly using their preferred standards-compliant traceability system, saving time on data cleansing, preventing data loss and eliminating the need to manage multiple systems and data sets. Wegmans and many of its suppliers have chosen to use a blockchain-based traceability solution for seafood.”

This article is an excerpt from the May 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire FSMA 204: Navigating the Future feature and more in the digital edition here.