By: By: Hilary Thesmar, PhD, RD, Chief Food and Product Safety Officer and Vice President, Food Safety Programs; Ashley Eisenbeiser, MS, CFS, Director Food and Product Safety Programs; and Gwen Lee, Senior Manager, Food Safety Programs
The year of 2016 will be remembered for food safety regulations, resources and relationships. These three themes may appear rather divergent, but they served as the strands carefully woven into the life-line the FMI Center for Retail Food Safety and Defense extended to internal and external stakeholders this past year.
Anticipating the changes a new Presidential Administration will bring always elicits a flurry of increased regulatory activity from current federal agencies seeking to complete priority items before leaving office. The quantity and variety of regulations impacting the food industry in 2016 has been staggering for retailers, including: the publication of the final major Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations, the complete revision of nutrition labeling, and the finalization of several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations on labeling and recordkeeping. Utilizing face-to-face meetings, webinars and an avalanche of emails, FMI’s government relations and food safety teams coordinated efforts and remained in close contact with the various agencies through the entire regulatory process to ensure FMI members’ interests were represented.
In order to help members better understand both the breadth and depth of the regulations coming down the pike, FMI and Safe Quality Food Institute offered several FSMA Preventive Controls Qualified Individual (PCQI) trainings this year. These were designed to meet the new FSMA PCQI requirement and to ensure our members were well-versed regarding FSMA compliance expectations. .
To help members build their company’s culture of food safety by steadily improving their food safety programs in 2016, FMI provided members with the most relevant resources. FMI updated its SafeMark® Food Handler training program, which this year, received recognition as an American National Standards Institute-accredited certificate program. This was a celebrated and important milestone in the continued growth and success of the SafeMark® program. The FMI food safety team also updated and created several critical resources in 2016, including a Food Allergen Resource Document, a Listeria Action Plan for Retailers, and a sample FSMA Distribution Center Food Safety Plan to assist with FSMA compliance.
In this day of connected commerce, effective business relationships are essential to everything touching retail, especially improving food safety. We forged new relationships this year and expanded partnerships to enhance FMI’s value to its members. In particular, we trust that our partnership with Prometric, FMI’s new certification and exam provider for the SafeMark® food manager training, will enhance food safety certification opportunities in retail stores. The benefit of this alliance is twofold, as the training provided strengthens the valued food safety skills of the professionals at the retail level and provides these associates with career advancing resources.
Food safety is the foundational building block of trust that must be present in the grocer-customer relationship. Knowing that trust is hard won, but easily lost, it must be constantly and consistently nurtured and supported. Throughout the year, FMI provided members with essential and practical tools for cultivating customer trust in the safety of the products being sold by offering numerous opportunities to network, collaborate with peers and share best practices regarding food safety and regulatory compliance. Additionally, FMI’s collaboration with academic, regulatory, industry and other trade association experts on technical issues advanced our knowledge and awareness on current and emerging issues to better support the food retail industry. These relationships are critical to anticipating the direction customer concerns and interest are headed, so our industries food safety experts can stay a step ahead.
No matter what the 2017 regulatory agenda brings, FMI will continue to serve its members by providing regulatory support, developing relevant resources, and expanding our food safety network so food retailers can focus on what they do best—feeding families and enriching lives.Please feel free to contact the Center for Retail Food Safety and Defense for resources or solutions on any food safety issue and especially when you need us most -when a food safety crisis arises. You can also stay connected by following us on Twitter at @FMI_FoodSafety or signing up for updates.