Walmart, Kroger, Costco, Wegmans and Yum! Brands have formed the Leafy Greens Safety Coalition to encourage efforts on improving prevention and traceability.
The group endorses the recommendations of the Romaine Task Force and has committed to working with suppliers on implementing emerging best practices backed by science. The Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association convened the task force after several E. coli outbreaks in 2018 were attributed to the lettuce.
Coalition members have already had one face-to-face meeting with Food and Drug Administration officials, with a follow-up planned soon.
Each company will decide on its own when suppliers need to adhere to new food safety requirements, but there is a sense of urgency.
Along with the participation of Walmart, Kroger, Costco, Wegmans and Yum! Brands — which include Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC — the coalition will also have involvement from Mike Taylor, co-chairman of the nonprofit Stop Foodborne Illness and former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA, and Mike Robach, CEO of the Robach Group and former vice president of corporate food safety, quality and regulatory affairs for Cargill. Taylor and Robach spoke at the Center for Produce Safety Symposium in June in Austin, Texas.
Several of the companies in the coalition issued statements about their endorsement of the Romaine Task Force’s report.
“Costco certainly supports the recommendations of the task force and sees them as great first step,” the company wrote.
Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety for Costco, is on the board of directors for the Center for Produce Safety.
Walmart, whose former vice president of food safety Frank Yiannas is now the deputy commissioner of food policy and response for the FDA, also commended the work of task force members in a statement.
“Walmart, working with our suppliers, will continue to update our food safety programs based on the latest available science to help protect our customers and members,” the company wrote.
Walmart and Kroger have been early advocates for better traceability in the supply chain, signing on for IBM’s blockchain collaboration in 2017.
“As a leader in food safety, The Kroger Co. recognizes the need for an integrated food safety approach to ensure fresh leafy greens remain safe and readily available for our customers,” the company wrote. “We commend the efforts of the industry produce task force and fully support its recommendations.”
Wegmans, whose vice president of produce Dave Corsi is the chairman of the Center for Produce Safety, also voiced support for the higher standards outlined in the task force’s report.
“We endorse them and will continue to tighten our food safety specifications, especially around water quality, (concentrated animal feeding operations) distances, and dust particles as more scientific research becomes available,”