Grocers Must Be Vigilant About Food Safety During the Holidays
The holiday season is always a busy time for food retailers. As the weather cools down, families settle into the sights and smells of holiday traditions, many of which revolve around home-cooked meals and food-inspired activities. In preparation for the surge of food shoppers, grocery stores race to keep the essentials well stocked on shelves while ensuring the availability of in-demand seasonal items.
Amid these challenges, grocers are tasked with overcoming the ripple effects of nationwide food contamination headlines. With the public on high alert for compromised products, it’s critical for grocers to be more vigilant than ever about food safety.
the riskiest time for a store’s reputation
This season, trust in the grocery provider is the top factor influencing buyer decisions, and shoppers are willing to pay more for foods that they believe are higher in quality. Any reason for consumers to lose trust in your commitment to food safety and quality can adversely impact the store’s reputation and bottom line.
While a recall or contamination issue is significant for food retailers any time of year, the holidays bring even greater risk. As larger groups of people gather together, there’s increased potential for negative exposure. News of one food-related illness or quality complaint is apt to spread like wildfire. Factor in the reach of social media, and you have a recipe for reputational ruin.
People also tend to have more emotionally charged connections to holiday foods. Given the stress of the season and the importance placed on mealtime traditions, a contaminated Thanksgiving turkey, batch of holiday cookies, or cup of eggnog could be devastating to a store’s reputation and business for years to come.
The grocer’s role is the last line of defense
The foods that end up lining your store aisles originate from the suppliers. If just one item is affected along the journey through production, storage and delivery, it can affect other foods in the store. As products are unloaded, stored and possibly handled or prepared for on-site consumption, the risk of danger to the consumer – and, ultimately, your brand – escalates exponentially.
Many grocery stores now also operate kitchens or commissaries on site, which further intensifies the complexity of delivering safe, nutritious and affordable food to consumers. Because grocers warehouse everything from meat and poultry to produce and dairy – much of which sits on shelves or displays for extended periods of time – there are countless opportunities for sustained contamination.
With your own reputation and financial margins at stake, it’s unwise to be complacent about food safety or leave it in the hands of manufacturers. In fact, the FDA just proposed new food recall guidelines to disclose the names of grocers that have received a contaminated product. In terms of public awareness, this would more closely link your brand name to food safety incidents that occurred before the products even arrived at your loading dock.
Demand more from suppliers
Given these major risks, grocers must have automated, efficient ways to collect and access on-site pathogen testing data in real time, as well as manage, analyze and communicate that data to prevent contamination issues as early as possible. The only way to ensure that you’re working with safe foods from the start is by adopting a solution that enables you to access and analyze information on your suppliers’ food safety performance.
Vigorously defend your own stores! Adopt a vigilant oversight program based on FDA and USDA best practices for manufacturers. There are no “lines” anymore – everyone has to adapt to the realization that risk doesn’t end when the food is manufactured and shipped. Everyone in the supply chain is equally responsible.
As grocery stores transform their offerings and face increasingly complex food supply chains, technology has become integral to safeguarding the brand. Be active in protecting your reputation, preserving the livelihood of your brand, and, most importantly, keeping your consumers safe and healthy.