(May 8, 4:24 p.m.) The National Restaurant Association is following in the footsteps of seven of the world’s largest retail grocery chains, reaching an agreement to share best food safety practices and use common food safety standards in an alliance with the Global Food Safety Initiative.

The Washington, D.C.-based association, which represents members with about 380,000 locations, said it will work with the Global Food Safety Initiative and encourage its members to use one of the four food safety management schemes approved by the initiative.

The Global Food Safety Initiative was launched in 2000. Last year, retailers Carrefour, Tesco, Metro, Migors, Ahold, Wal-Mart and Delhaize acknowledged acceptance of the four food safety schemes benchmarked by the initiative: British Retail Consortium Global Food Standard, International Food Standard, Safe Quality Food and the Dutch Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program.

Donna Garren, the NRA’s vice president of health and safety regulatory affairs, said the association hopes to improve cost efficiency in the supply chain by reducing the duplication of audits and allowing suppliers to meet the needs of multiple buyers with one audit.

She said standardization also should improve the quality of audits.

“Anyone can hang out their shingle and say they’re an auditor,” she said. “We’re trying to bring some kind of control and order to the process.”

Garren said it likely will take time for members to change their auditing requirements. She said the association will provide information to members about the Global Food Safety Initiative at NRA events, including a July 9 import safety summit in Washington, D.C. The association also has a foodservice event planned for the week of Oct. 20 in Atlanta.

The Global Food Safety Initiative is managed by Paris-based CIES — The Food Business Forum, a network of senior management from about 400 retailers and manufacturer members in 150 countries. The alliance with the NRA means that the initiative will start seeking feedback from the foodservice industry.

To that end, Cindy Jiang, director of worldwide quality, food safety and nutrition for McDonald’s Corp., Oakbrook, Ill., has been added to the initiative’s board of directors. In addition, Garren has been added to the group’s technical committee.

Garren, who was a vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the former United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association, also recently was elected to the board of directors for the Conference for Food Protection. That group meets every two years and acts as an advisory authority to the Food and Drug Administration regarding food safety regulations.