A retail produce quality assurance veteran wants to help retailers improve their quality assurance programs.

Longtime Wegmans quality assurance leader starts QA firmGeorge Seifert, who developed the quality assurance program for Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets Inc., founded Rochester-based Produce QA Consultants LLC in September.

Though he hasn"t signed on any clients yet, Seifert, who worked as a U.S. Department of Agriculture produce inspector before his 20 years at Wegmans, said he is aggressively trying to secure retail clients he can work with to upgrade their quality assurance programs. He said effective quality assurance programs concern product flow, freshness and effective sampling.

"Most retailers have a quality assurance program," Seifert said. "While most programs may not get the short stick, as budgets are cut and money tightens, QA programs get nipped. Some companies don"t put all the necessary resources into QA and use the QA term loosely, thinking quality just happens. Quality programs are well-disciplined standards that must be met and upheld by a good team."

Though he said he doesn"t consider himself a pioneer in the field, Seifert gained many insights through his quality assurance work at Wegmans, where he built a staff of a dozen inspectors and banana ripeners.

The critical part of retail quality control involves distribution centers. Seifert said product sampling remains key and said retailers must employ effective sampling regimes that don"t only skim the top or evaluate a few select cases.

Retailers should hold their suppliers responsible for what they tell them, Seifert said.

Commenting on the September cantaloupe listeria outbreak, Seifert said quality assurance and food safety remain different aspects of the business. Though it"s difficult for retailers at distribution center receiving level to apply effective safety procedures, he said sampling, testing and laboratory analysis can help reduce problems.

"Business is done over the phone and on the computer, but when it comes to your DC, you need to have a good name for your DC," he said. "Retailers should make sure they"re lined up with good suppliers testing their product vs. retailers checking everything that comes in.

Seifert"s website is at http://www.produceqaconsultants.com.