NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (FNS) -- Trade associations representing grower/shippers of fresh produce items are pushing retailers to adopt a single, nationwide standard for produce safety that suppliers could use for all supermarkets.
The protest came as growers are attempting to meet the April 30th deadline set by Albertson's Inc., Boise, which announced a chainwide produce-safety program last December.
Organizations like the Western Growers Association, based here, are urging retailers to use one set of criteria for all producers, such as the WGA's own voluntary guidelines, which are based on best practices prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration, said David Moore, WGA president.
"If Albertson's adopts the...self-audit model, the fresh-produce industry may be able to adhere to one common industry self-audit standard," he wrote the chain.
The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Orlando, Fla., also weighed in on the issue. "It is counterproductive for each buyer to set up their own protocol," said Ray Gilmer, spokesman, adding that the organization is working on an industry standard that will "hopefully" be accepted by all major retailers.
Albertson's, aware that food safety is a growing concern among Americans, is requiring its suppliers to start using third-party verification services to assure they are implementing Good Agricultural Practices. The suppliers must also develop safe production manuals and post results of the audits on a Web site or mail them for Albertson's review.
Albertson's is not the only retailer to develop these type of requirements. About a year ago, Safeway launched its own food-safety audit program. Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., is also considering requiring its produce suppliers to follow food-safety guidelines, but is asking for their comments and suggestions first.