By Ashley Eisenbeiser, Senior Director, Food and Product Safety Programs, FMI 

Tomato on VineEach year, FMI’s Food Protection Committee sets initiatives to help guide and prioritize their work. Not only do these priorities help to focus communication with member companies about pressing food safety issues, but they also support FMI’s advocacy efforts with Congress and regulatory agencies on federal food safety policies. This year, our focus zeroes in on three priority areas: traceability, produce safety, and chemical contaminants. 


In 2024, the food industry continues to push forward on traceability. The industry is faced with many challenges − the Food Traceability Rule is complex, the scope of the Food Traceability List is vast and broad and the regulatory requirements conflict with operational practices. Regardless, the food industry must navigate the challenging landscape and meet the requirements of the rule by the January 20, 2026, compliance date. The goal of the food industry is to comply with the regulation. Despite the many roadblocks, the industry continues to focus on what can be done to support public health partners during foodborne illness investigations. 

Over the last year, FMI members worked tirelessly to understand the rule in order to develop and implement solutions to meet the requirements. As part of these efforts, the industry aligned around the importance of leveraging data standards to help meet the requirements of the traceability rule. With a focus on awareness, education and advocacy, FMI has developed a number of tools and resources to support the industry as they diligently work toward achieving the goal of compliance. 

This year’s work will focus on engaging with supply chain partners to increase awareness of compliance requirements and encourage adoption of data standards as a best practice. Success is dependent on the entire industry − companies of all sizes, from all sectors − having a clear understanding of the requirements of the rule and adoption of business practices to meet those requirements.  

Produce Safety

FMI members remain committed to sourcing safe produce as well as working with public health and the produce industry to protect public health. FDA’s final produce safety regulation on agricultural water, published earlier this month, completes FDA’s Produce Safety Rule which applies to produce growers and production agriculture. Water continues to be a contributing factor in many outbreaks involving produce and highlights the need for vigilance throughout the growing season. 

FMI will continue to strengthen food safety programs through collaboration with the produce industry and encourage adoption of best practices that reflect the latest science and evolves as science advances. 

Heavy Metals and Chemical Contaminants

With the publication of several high-profile reports in recent years and growing pressure from consumer groups, there is heightened interest in the presence of heavy metals, environmental contaminants and food additives in the food supply and the potential public health impact that consumption of these products could have. 

States across the country are looking at way to limit or phase out these substances and many jurisdictions are aggressively taking legislative actions as a means to do so − including banning chemicals, imposing strict testing requirements, and requiring label and website disclosures for certain products. While the merit of these efforts is unclear, the patchwork of requirements is a challenge and burdensome for the food industry. 

There has also been a significant increase in federal regulatory activity, including new PFAS in drinking water regulations and food ingredients, food contact substances and contaminants being under review through the Closer to Zero Initiative that aims to reduce exposure to toxic elements in foods commonly eaten by babies and young children to the lowest possible levels.  

This year, the industry will be working to identify opportunities for research to ensure regulatory actions are based on both science and risk and are achievable. FMI members will be working to engage industry partners to identify best practices throughout production and encourage adoption of these practices to protect public health. 

Each of these priorities serves as an example of how the industry is working to advance food safety, protect public health and enhance consumer trust in the food they consume. And while we tackle these complex issues in 2024, new challenges and opportunities are likely to arise. Nevertheless, the industry’s commitment to food safety will remain constant.