- The FDA published its final rule about new traceability protocols for a variety of food products vulnerable to contamination. People who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods including produce, cheeses, eggs, nut butter, seafood and deli salads will be subjected to new recordkeeping requirements during production and along the supply chain.
- The compliance date for the new requirements is Jan. 20, 2026. The law makes exemptions for small farms, stores and foodservice entities, as well as some foods that are treated to reduce contamination and produce that is rarely consumed raw.
- Traceability technology has long been touted as a way to identify contaminated food and ingredients quickly in the system. The FDA has said this kind of program can make the U.S. food system safer.
The traceability rule is a part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and has been bucketed into the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. As the agency works to enhance food safety in general, it makes sense for the government to also use traceability technology — implemented for years by grocery stores to track products throughout their supply chains and stores.
Frank Yiannas, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food policy and response, said in a statement that the protocols help “create a harmonized, universal language of food traceability” that will assist the industry in developing its own systems.
But implementing this policy nationwide, as well as requiring a variety of different entities to start keeping new records, is a large undertaking. While it’s been difficult for entities to digest the nearly 600-page final rule in the hours since it was published, groups that will need to change policies are pushing back on some of the sweeping mandates.
NACS said it supports plans to make food tracing more thorough, but “expressed concern that small retailers, which represent 63.5% of all convenience stores in the U.S., would not be able to meet the proposed additional recordkeeping requirements.”
The grocery industry is also eyeing the new requirement with caution. Statements from both the National Grocers Association and Food Industry Association say the rule likely exceeds the FDA’s statutory authority for implementing FSMA.
The sweeping food safety law passed in 2011 emphasized preventative steps to make food that gets to consumers safer. FSMA’s provisions — which include more inspections, better manufacturing safety protocols and water testing requirements for produce growers — were rolled out slowly during the last decade.
Grocery industry groups have been preparing for the publication of this new rule. Earlier this month, the National Grocers Association teamed up with ReposiTrak to waive the setup fee to access the ReposiTrak Traceability Network so that members could be ready to share their data.
As different impacted entities see the changes they will need to make to comply with the new requirement, similar programs may be established for cheese makers and produce growers. However, different businesses have more than three years to make these changes. Considering large recent outbreaks linked to peanut butter and raw onions, the need for this kind of technology for food safety is apparent.