Economic Reasons for Embracing Food Safety

The benefits of embracing food safety standards seem obvious. After all, who wants to contribute to making the public sick or worse? Corporate boardrooms are also realizing that accepting food safety regulation makes economic sense as well.

The obvious benefit is to reduce foodborne illnesses and fatalities. E.coli, Listeria and Salmonella, for example, sicken thousands every year and put hundreds in early graves. The ability to reduce outbreaks through prevention and quickly trace contaminated food back to its source benefits everyone.

And the world is getting better at this. Much of the improvement is due to government focus. Recently, the food industry has come under political scrutiny and legislation is emerging worldwide to bolster food safety regulation.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed in 2011 in the U.S. is a good example of government reacting to preventable outbreaks with strong regulation. Of course, we will have to wait to see how well the FDA implements the FSMA to gauge its effectiveness.

Change does not come easy. Some corporations are fighting back with an army of lobbyist claiming that fees levied against them to support enforcement of new legislation will increase costs and prices. But the public isn’t buying it, nor should they. In the long run, companies in the food supply chain will enjoy lower costs and avoid legal hassles by embracing the FSMA and its global brethren.

Less tainted food means fewer recalls which means less waste, all of which drops to the bottom line. As food providers implement and enforce standards (like those benchmarked by the Global Food Safety Initiative – GFSI), costs will decease while safety increases. Streamlined, consistent procedures, sanitized facilities, and rigid hazard analysis and control will drive down expenses while improving productivity.

There is also the often overlooked cost of fighting legal battles and paying out settlements for negligence. Food providers can save millions simply by making this expenditure go away. Besides the moral imperative, courts are casting a dim eye towards sloppiness within the food industry. It is no longer acceptable to treat legal battles as the cost of doing business.

Moreover, food providers must protect their brands. Enjoying a good track record on food safety is important in today’s market. Alienating buyers through bad publicity can quickly put a company and its products into a tailspin. That is why major retailers like Wal-Mart swiftly embraced food safety and now require their suppliers to be certified under universal standards.

As the Borg on Star Trek say, “Resistance is futile.” Food providers, processors, packagers, distributors and retailers really have no choice. Enhanced regulation is here to stay. Every time there are major outbreaks, more regulation and tighter enforcement is a possibility. Fighting it is senseless. Those that embrace emerging food safety standards and enforcement ultimately enjoy access to larger markets and higher profits. Companies attempting to buck or mitigate this trend are an endangered species.