Five Challenges for CEOs Today Regarding Food Safety

A sound food safety program is imperative in today’s food manufacturing world. First, CEOs of food companies want to produce safe food for consumers. Second, CEOs want and need to protect the company brand. Regarding the latter, consumers are much more aware of “safe food” than they have been in the past and tend to buy/support safe manufacturers of food. A sound food safety system is a selling advantage as well as a preventative from food borne illnesses. Today’s CEO faces several challenges regarding food safety operations.


While food safety starts with the CEO or leader of the organization, having your food safety operation adequately staffed with the right people in the right seats of the bus is essential. Starting with leadership, do you have a competent food safety leader in place that aligns with the company vision?  Someone who is technically sound and understands and agrees with the corporate vision. Leadership in food safety is beyond the necessary dotting of the I’s and crossing the T’s.  Someone who can build a food Safety culture in line with the company vision.

Next is the management and supervisory level of the food safety team. While maintaining an eye on the corporate vision set by leadership, these are the people who oversee the daily, weekly, and monthly functions of the food safety system.

Finally, there is entry level staffing.  Critical to the food safety plan in terms of having sufficient staffing and staff keen on dotting those I’s and crossing those T’s.  Regarding the former, staffing food safety positions and retaining people for those positions can be difficult.  Particularly in a seasonal operation.  Is Human Resources effectively aligned with staffing, training, and retainment?


The environment and its ever-changing nature present several challenges to CEOs and food safety leadership. From emerging bacteria, toxins, allergens, and antimicrobial resistance. To changes in testing for pathogens and allergens. Lastly, but not least, changes to current infrastructure such as physical building changes or operational line changes. What policies and procedures are in place to assure the food safety system stays in the lead of these challenges?


From increased regulations and heightened public awareness to growing consumer unease with threats against the food supply, companies cannot risk ignoring this important challenge.

For the CEO, do you have a food safety culture across the business and are you marketing this approach to enhance consumer brand loyalty and product visibility?  Regarding regulations, do you take a proactive approach with the regulatory agency with jurisdiction over company facilities to ensure transparent and clear communications?


Food safety culture begins with the CEO.  Annually, CEOs should assess the food safety culture from top management down to the line worker and confirm it is sufficiently supported with financial and human resources. Repeating the statement made in regulations/consumer, does your culture stretch across the entire organization and do you market this culture for product selectivity?

I read recently that food safety culture should be thought of as a journey, not a destination.  A journey filled with challenges and detours with small wins that add up to gaining buy-in.


In recent years, the food industry has seen movement from pencil and paper and spreadsheets to a real time-digital database. Companies have started to use digital solutions for more accurate recording of data, minimizing manual errors, and ease of compliance. In addition to reducing manual errors and saving time, creating a digital database will provide real time information and improve response time for traceability/recalls. Regulations continue to up the bar for reporting such as reporting product details for recalls within 24 hours to the proper authorities. The industry is only expected to embrace this digital trend more as various software solutions come out on the market.

Food safety challenges for the CEO and the entire organization will be continual and evolving as time moves forward.  A November 29, 2022, a reader poll conducted by Quality Assurance & Food Safety Magazine identified the following food safety concerns for 2023: 25% recalls, 25% traceability, 25% supplier/supply chain issues, 12% labor shortages, 12% something else. How these challenges are addressed in terms of safe food and consumer awareness will have a significant impact on the overall performance of the company.