New Food Traceability Rule Sparks Concerns Among Grocery Trade Groups

New Food Traceability Rule Sparks Concerns Among Grocery Trade Groups

Some grocery trade groups posit that the FDA’s final food traceability rule does not take an approach that provides flexibility for smaller operators.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its final rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods, which includes food traceability protocols for a variety of food products susceptible to contamination. Although food traceability requirements are becoming more common, two grocery trade groups are expressing concerns regarding the new ruling.

The final rule, which goes into effect in early 2026 and is part of the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), is designed to provide a means for additional traceability of high-risk foods through recordkeeping requirements from companies who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods the agency has designated for inclusion on the Food Traceability List (FTL).

This means that people who manufacture, process, pack or hold foods including produce, cheeses, eggs, nut butter, seafood and deli salads will be subjected to the new rule during production and along the supply chain. The law makes exemptions for small farms, stores, foodservice entities, produce that is rarely consumed raw and some foods that are treated to reduce contamination.

Related: Here’s How the FDA is Making it Easier to Trace Foods

However, requiring a variety of different entities to start keeping new records is a large undertaking. While it’s been difficult for some to digest the nearly 600-page final rule in the hours since it was published, industry associations that will be required to change policies are pushing back on some of the sweeping mandates. The grocery industry particularly is eyeing the new food traceability rule with caution.

The National Grocers Association (NGA) and the Food Industry Association (FMI) voiced their concerns about the expanded scope of the final food traceability rule. The NGA, which represents independent supermarkets, has submitted comments to the FDA on the proposed rule claiming it will disproportionately impact smaller grocers.

“It is already clear that implementation of the requirements in the rule will demand tremendous investments of time and resources across the entire food industry,” the FMI said in a statement. The trade group added that work on the safety of the food supply chain needs to be done “with the least possible impact on food prices, greatest impact on results, and consistency with the intent of the law passed in 2011,” but it does not believe the new rule will accomplish this.

As different impacted industry groups 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. Businesses have more than three years to make these changes. 

While both the NGA and the FMI agree the new food traceability rule exceeds the FDA’s statutory authority, they also expressed their ongoing full commitment to support and work to protect public health through appropriate product tracing and recordkeeping practices for high-risk foods. Considering recent large outbreaks linked to peanut butter and raw onions, the need for further food safety mandates is apparent.