Short dive:

  • The two major food industry trade groups are raising concerns over the FDA’s final published rule on new traceability protocols for a variety of food products vulnerable to contamination.
  • Under the new rule, which will take effect in early 2026 and is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSM extension), people who produce, process, package or hold food, including agricultural products, cheeses, eggs, nut butters, seafood and delicatessen salads will be subject to new registration obligations during production and along the supply chain. The law provides exemptions for small farms, shops and catering establishments, as well as some foods treated to reduce contamination and products that are rarely eaten raw.
  • Statements from both the National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Industry Association (FMI) say the rule likely exceeds the FDA’s statutory authority to implement FSM extension.

Dive information:

The traceability rule has been incorporated into the FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative. As the agency works to improve food safety in general, it makes sense that the government would also use tracking technology, which grocery stores have implemented for years to track products through supply chains and stores.

Traceability technology has long been touted as a way to quickly identify contaminated foods and ingredients in your system. The FDA has said that this type of program can make the US food system safer.

Frank Yiannas, FDA 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 help industry develop their own systems.

But implementing this policy nationwide, as well as requiring a variety of different entities to start keeping new records, is a tall order. While it has been difficult for entities to digest the nearly 600-page final rule in the hours since it was published, policy-changing groups are rejecting some of the sweeping mandates. The compliance date for the new requirements is January 20, 2026.

The food industry, in particular, is wary of the new requirement.

“It is already clear that implementing the standard’s requirements will require huge investments of time and resources across the food industry,” IMF said in a statement. The trade group added that the work on food chain safety must be carried out “with the least possible impact on food prices, the maximum impact on results and coherence with the intent of the law passed in 2011. Based on the Our quick review of this incredibly complex rule fails to accomplish this.

The NGA, which said it has submitted comments to the FDA on the proposed rule and has attended listening sessions to raise concerns, says the final rule will disproportionately hurt small grocery stores. The association, which represents independent grocers, said its concerns include the extent of the scope and complexity of the rule, the phased implementation period and requirements around the sortable spreadsheet for certain foods such as cheese, eggs and nut butter.

“Smaller retailers will be disproportionately impacted by this final rule as it will be costly to implement and will require additional manpower that many stores cannot spare,” Stephanie Johnson, NGA’s vice president of government relations, said in the statement.

Both trade groups said they would continue to analyze the impact of the final rule on its members.

The sweeping FSMA law approved in 2011 emphasized preventive measures to make food reaching consumers safer. FSMA’s provisions – which include more inspections, better production safety protocols and water testing requirements for growers of agricultural products – have been implemented slowly over the last decade.

Food industry groups are preparing for the publication of this new rule. Earlier this month, the NGA partnered with ReposiTrak to waive the setup fee to access the ReposiTrak tracking network so members could be ready to share their data.

As different stakeholders see the changes they will need to make to comply with the new requirement, similar programs can be set up for cheese makers and growers. However, several companies have more than three years to make these changes. Considering the large recent outbreaks related to peanut butter and raw onions, the need for this type of food safety technology is evident.

Catherine Douglas Moran helped report this story.

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