Food safety management has never been more critical.

On the one hand, consumer concern is at a record high since COVID-19 pushed contamination fears up the public agenda. Seventy-nine per cent of consumers now say they’re primed to change their buying behaviour in the event of a food safety scare, according to the September 2022 Eurobarometer.

On the other, the supply chain shocks of recent years – from a global pandemic, to the increasing impact of climate change and the ongoing war in Ukraine – have fuelled a rise in recorded incidents of both food fraud and product recalls.

However, for manufacturers, retailers and service providers, the need to reassure customers of robust food safety strategies can come at a steep financial cost. One they are now forced to balance alongside escalating budget cuts.


Globally, food and drink businesses face increasing energy bills, rising commodity prices and higher labour and shipping costs. Almost half cut or paused investment projects in 2022 as a result, with budgets for innovation, marketing and infrastructure slashed.

How to balance bottom line pressures with effective food safety management

For all businesses, it’s vital to remember that prevention is significantly less costly than cure when it comes to food safety strategies.

That means they need proactively seek out cost-effective food safety solutions that may require an initial capital outlay, but undoubtedly save money in the longer term by preventing mistakes.

For manufacturers...

that may mean deploying greater traceability or date-coding. This practice helps to manage the risk of incorrect labelling on production lines, by deploying simple assurance systems to automatically detect and remove incorrectly labelled products, rather than relying on manpower.

Regular staff training is key too. With only a small investment into courses on food safety compliance for team members, manufacturers can ensure the business is up to date on changing food safety regulations. Regularly carrying out audits and evaluations of core processes and procedures too, is an easy way to maintain food safety standards and spot any potential for errors before they happen.

For brands and retailers...

food safety management may feel out of their direct control. But there are plenty of affordable ways here too to improve oversight without investing huge sums. Consider implementing a food safety program or guide for suppliers. Doing so could ensure you and a manufacturer or producer are on the same page as regards to food safety management at the outset. Training employees on food safety compliance can also be a cost-effective way to prevent errors. Equipping retail staff with knowledge of food sanitation, the importance of the cold chain and adherence to legal food safety labels can all help to optimise food safety management in stores.

For service providers...

Consistency and proactive measures are the keys to balancing budget cuts with robust food safety strategies. This includes implementing clear food safety protocols for all delivery and takeout services, on which all staff are trained on a regular basis and ensuring these protocols are adhered to through regular unplanned inspections and evaluations.

Key takeaways

Though all these measures can feel like an extra drain on resources at a time when food and drink businesses can ill-afford to do so, the preventative impact on food safety management going forward will ensure such steps deliver a more than reasonable ROI.

There are numerous reasons, in other words, why food and drink businesses should continue to prioritise their ESG performance and sustainability, despite ongoing uncertainty. Not only does it retain existing customers and attract new ones, but it can improve margins, drive growth and create supply chains more resilient to future shocks. All this is critical as businesses – and their consumers - navigate the current crisis.  

It can undoubtedly be challenging for manufacturers, retailers and service providers to simultaneously navigate budget cuts while stepping up their efforts on food safety management. But by remembering that proactive, preventative steps are the most cost-effective solution in the longer term, it is possible to manage budgets while ensuring food safety for both customers and consumers.

Read part 5 in our Cost of Goods series: The cost of new product development: how to integrate agility into innovation here.