The development of proactive risk management approaches in pursuit of microbiologically safe food is a direct consequence of the ineffectiveness of traditional retrospective strategies. This review catalogues some of the more important observations and insights which have brought about such a change in strategy. By any interpretation the reaction of the scientific community to change has been, in some quarters, as trenchant as it is unwarranted. The anatomy of this opposition and the psychological determinants underpinning it are examined and challenged. The need for an amended perception of the role of monitoring and of microbiological standards in the validation of proactive risk management is explored. Particular attention is given to the importance of accurate analytical methods and to the advantages which derive from the adoption of microbiological reference ranges as opposed to single numerical limits. The need to assess attainable ranges with reference to die intrinsic characteristics of the food under consideration and its mode of transport and distribution is also highlighted. Implications of the change in strategy aimed at consumer protection for education and training of food safety professionals with particular reference to food microbiologists, are considered.