The food safety landscape has faced instability the past few years, from supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and a growing volume of food and beverage recalls. Fortunately, industry stakeholders are adapting and responding in record time to these challenges, in ways that could alter the food safety landscape for years to come. So what are some of the food safety trends around the corner, and how will they impact operations? 

The current outlook of the industry spans a variety of potential new developments, challenges, and opportunities on the horizon. Here are three food safety trends food and beverage manufacturers should be on the lookout for in 2024. 

1. Greater Focus on Traceability of High-Risk Foods 

Recently, the FDA released the FSMA Final Rule on Requirements for Additional Traceability Records for Certain Foods, introducing a new set of traceability recordkeeping obligations for stakeholders involved in the production, processing, packaging, or storage of high-risk foods like cheeses, leafy greens, fresh fruits, and everything else on the official Food Traceability List. 

The new rule aims to enhance food safety by enabling stakeholders to quickly identify and remove potentially contaminated food from the market, reducing foodborne illnesses and fatalities. The most noteworthy requirement of the rule is that parties affected must maintain records with Key Data Elements (KDEs) related to specific Critical Tracking Events (CTEs) and share this information with the FDA within 24 hours. 

While the compliance date is not set until 2026, figuring out the logistics required to meet these new regulations will be a major topic of discussion, education, strategy, and training throughout 2024. Creating efficient, effective, and compliant processes and tracking systems to maintain traceability from farm to store will be particularly resource intensive. The FDA is expected to conduct outreach throughout the year to clarify rules and develop training materials — be sure to take advantage of these resources as they come. 

2. Deepening Employee Training and Development 

COVID-19 and the “Great Resignation” have made labor shortages a defining feature of the food and beverage industry for the past few years. In a study from 2022, as much as 73% of food and beverage manufacturers had trouble filling open positions. Finding qualified personnel to staff important positions in the food industry will continue to be a challenge in 2024, so employers will need to do what they can to retain their current workforce and maximize employee performance. 

Leaders can achieve this by investing in employee support initiatives, new training, and upskilling, providing much needed re-engagement after years of disruption. In addition, they can focus on equipping workers with the skills needed to maintain food safety. In 2024, employers may even start to consider ways to make careers in food safety more exciting and appealing to attract a new generation of talent. 

3. Mitigating Risks From New Product Types 

The global plant-based meat market had already reached a value of $5.06 billion in 2022, and it’s expected to quadruple by 2030. While this trend can go a long way in addressing issues like climate change, it also creates new types of food safety risks for manufacturers and distributors, including potential confusion about which agency’s regulations to follow. As the market continues to expand, 2024 could be a year of significant progress in ensuring food safety for plant-based meats and other new types of products. 

Traditional meat is under the jurisdiction of the USDA and HACCP standards until it’s processed into a packaged product and moved into the jurisdiction of the FDA and PCQI standards. However, plant-based meat is primarily under the jurisdiction of the FDA for its entire lifecycle, so there may be biological hazards that existing food safety schemes haven’t considered. 

Since plant-based meat can consist of so many different types of ingredients based on brand and manufacturer, it’s also difficult to create a set of food safety standards and regulations that apply to all plant-based meats. Regulators across the globe are beginning to develop frameworks on how to categorize and classify these new types of foods. 

Navigating the Food Safety Trends of the Year Ahead 

As we peer into the middle part of the decade, the challenges and methods of ensuring integrity for the global food supply are evolving rapidly. Staying informed and proactive in adapting to emerging food safety trends gives the industry the opportunity to not only safeguard public health, but also improve the overall quality and sustainability of our food systems. 

Want to stay up to date on the latest food safety news? Sign up for the AIB International newsletter

Back to Blog