Wal-Mart, Supervalu forgo special testing - The Packer

Wal-Mart, Supervalu forgo special testing

07/21/2011 03:32:00 PM
Coral Beach

Although Costco Wholesale Corp. has begun requiring finished product testing of pathogens for fresh produce, two of the nation’s largest grocery retailers do not.

Neither Wal-Mart Stores Inc. nor Supervalu Inc. require the tests. Rather, both companies rely on Global Food Safety Initiative certifications and good agricultural practices requirements to make sure their customers are buying safe produce.

“Although testing is an important part of our program, we also understand the limitations of testing as a prevention strategy. No sampling can prevent, nor ensure, the absence of pathogens in produce,” said Wal-Mart’s vice president of food safety Frank Yiannis. “That’s why Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club … require our produce suppliers to achieve prevention-based certification using one of the GFSI internationally recognized food safety standards.”

Supervalu spokesman Mike Siemienas had similar comments about testing and food safety certification programs.

“We don’t require any testing beyond what is required for certifications by the government and other entities,” Siemienas said.

In addition to trusting their suppliers’ food safety protocols, Wal-Mart officials said the company wants to provide the freshest possible produce to its customers. They said requiring finished product testing would involve the test-and-hold process, delaying shipments of perishable products without adding any real benefit to consumers.

For more details on Costco's testing requirement and comments from large produce suppliers, read The Packer's story: Costco mandates produce testing.

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Carson City,NV  |  July, 21, 2011 at 10:00 PM

I can't agree with Wal-Mart policy that wants to provide the freshest possible product to its customers. Customer safety it's most important thing and testing can't replace with certificates.Everybody who works in food industry knows that inspections for certifications are provide only once a year.Anybody can belive that is enough for safe food? Big food chains like Wal-Mart are responsible for customers health and they must ensured all possible testing. I know ,all producers already spent big money for GMP and HACAP programs but never is not enough good that can'be better.If you follow all FDA food recals, you realized that bilions of dolars are spent each year because of that. Calculations I know shows, that each pound of product encluded 10 cents costs of microbial testing. I belived that everybody wants to pay 10 cents to ensured safe food. Now already exist systems for testing called Micromagic ,developed in New Zealand which give you accurate results from 1 to maximum 12 hours ,depends of population of bacteria.Best thing with this machine is because you can provide tests on site and every store manager can done this tests. So, it will be good that all other food retailer will follow Costco!

Illinois  |  July, 22, 2011 at 02:34 PM

Sebastian, testing does not ensure 100% that there will be no pathogens in produce. Testing is just that, testing of a very small portion of the represented lot. It is possible that you could test and have a negative and the food could still contain a pathogen that the test missed. Wal-Mart and SuperValu have this right in terms of relying on a quality food safety program. These programs take into account growers, suppliers facilities and do require pathogen testing of the environment and product (the latter when required). The days of rubber stamp food safety programs are over and GFSI programs are strenuous and detailed programs 100% above and beyond what was done 5-10 years earlier. The Costco model is adding cost and little more assurance to the consumer. But it makes a great sound bite.

Randle Macon    
Baltimore  |  July, 25, 2011 at 07:12 AM

If you look at the costs added by GFSI. The cost of just becoming a GFSI certified company and the required pathogen testing you still have to accomplish under GFSI you may find it is not that cost effective.

Thomas Romick    
California  |  September, 06, 2012 at 06:46 PM

I agree with Mr. Yiannis. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the produce industry, time is money. And the more time you spend on hold-and-test for finished product, the less time to market and more slack at retail. The key is to do more up front for positive release odf product. GFSI and HACCP priciples are good but find the target audience for microbes; the wash water. With rapid PCR-based testing, you can see the problem in real time for statistical process control of the that first step in processing in as little as 15 minute intervals to make decisions to hold or release product. Finished product testing is a statistical illusion that costs wasted time and money. Sure there will always be the need for finished product testing but only as a statistical validation step of up-front control measures. Use rapid real-time PCR to look for total bacteria loading and indicator organisms like E. coli. Make a hold-and-test decision based on these numbers and validate with periodic finished product testing. Real-time production monitoring can be done since it is not dependent on enrichment and subjective interpretation. It is fully automated and self reporting. Its easy to demand more testing at the recommendation of a few but not easy to undo it even after tohusands of negative tests. Preventative testing in real-time with solid HACCP are the keys to produce safety.

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