As risk-based approaches are increasingly recognized and used to manage food safety hazards, their implementation requires a recognition and appreciation of residual risk. We define residual risk as the one that remains even after a fully compliant food safety system has been implemented. As true ‘zero risk’ is essentially unattainable, understanding and assessing the residual risks for different products is essential for the different actors involved in the food production system. Understanding residual risk is particularly critical as improved surveillance systems (e.g. facilitated by whole genome sequencing) can detect small outbreaks and potentially link cases to a product, even when they are consequences of residual risk rather than a non-compliant food safety system. Future work on assessing residual risk for different pathogen-food combinations are essential at both the company and governmental level to further fine tune food safety systems with the definition of an acceptable residual risk.