With the New Year comes change, including within the food industry.
In 2017, the food industry will see changes that make it easier for consumers to make more informed food choices. The final compliance date for menu labeling regulations is May 5, 2017. Restaurants and retail food establishments with 20 or more U.S. locations will be required to provide calorie information on menus and menu boards, and nutrition information for 10 additional nutrients at the point of sale.
More and more manufacturers have to supply substantiation documents to prove what is in their products. However, food manufacturers are not the only ones who have to worry. There has been a move toward holding retailers accountable for any product that has their name on it. And it’s likely that the level of documentation that retailers must maintain will sustainably grow.
Overwhelmed yet? These are just a couple of examples of new regulations that food retailers and manufacturers must comply with in 2017.
Drivers of Change
Legislation is changing rapidly and an increasing complexity of products and expanding supply chain introduces additional risk and pressure. Meanwhile, social media has given consumers more power. If there’s a food quality or safety issue, news travels fast. Recent foodborne illness outbreaks have caused some consumers to question the food they are purchasing and consuming. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases every year.
Consumers have become more active in sharing their experiences with food as people become more concerned with making healthy decisions. Recent trends show that consumers want toxin-free and pathogen-free food, and they also want more transparency from food producers and retailers about what’s in their food and other food safety issues, according to the 2015 Food Value Equation Survey by Deloitte Consulting LLP.
The Deloitte survey found that:
  • 51 percent of consumers want “clear and accurate” labeling;
  • 47 percent of consumers want clear information on ingredients and sourcing;
  • 42 percent of consumers want fewer overall ingredients, no “artificial” ingredients and less processing; and
  • 41 percent of consumers want to know the nutritional content of foods
Ensure You’re Ready for Regulations
Change is often hard, but retailers and food producers must be prepared for the new regulations. The following tips will help ensure your organization is ready for any upcoming regulations:
  • Attend industry events. The Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) will host its annual roundtable conference in Warsaw, Poland in February. During the conference, market research specialists, retail executives and trade journalists help member manufacturers and retailers learn about the latest issues and regulations facing the industry. PLMA will also hold its annual U.S. Private Label Trade Show in Chicago in November.
  • Keep an eye on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website. The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply. Once a bill is passed, the FDA enforces the regulation.
  • Look to Europe. Standards are converging globally and the European government tends to work faster to meet consumer pressure. Any European legislation will likely make its way to the U.S. For example, in 2004, new regulations for the labelling of genetically modified foods and feed went into effect in the European Union. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) still has two years to finalize the regulations for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, commonly referred to as the GMO Labeling Bill. The bill was signed by President Obama on July 29, 2016.
  • Partner with an expert. Reputable private label management providers will offer a supplier collaboration program. These programs provide suppliers with access to technology to communicate effectively with retailers, as well as newsletters and reports with information about regulation.
Non-compliance Consequences
Although food poisoning outbreaks are rare, once they occur, the harm to a retailer’s brand and bottom line can be tremendous. Not only can the FDA levy hefty fines, it can also bar retailers from doing business with food manufacturers that fail to meet FDA guidelines. A study found that "the average cost of a recall to participating food and consumer product companies is $10 million, in addition to brand damage and lost sales."
In some cases, the consequences can be tragic. Nine people died and 714 others were sickened, some critically, across 46 states from a 2008 salmonella outbreak from peanut butter. In 2015, the CEO of a peanut company that manufactured the peanut butter was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Invest in Safety
Companies with a comprehensive view of food safety that invest in the necessary processes and technologies to stay ahead of industry regulations can minimize the likelihood of a food safety incident occurring. Investing in a food safety program can help retailers protect their brands by ensuring they are offering customers safe and compliant foods that meet all industry regulations.