BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores last week said that it will become the first nationwide food retailer to require suppliers of its private-label and other food products — including produce, meat, fish, poultry and ready-to-eat foods — to have their production and processing facilities certified by Global Food Safety Initiative standards.
Developed by Paris-based CIES, the Food Business Forum, GFSI standards are recognized as stricter than current audit processes required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under the GFSI program, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club will require producers of its private-label foods, as well as other foods, to be audited by inspectors independently trained under a GFSI-recognized program, such as Safe Quality Food, British Retail Consortium, International Food Standard or an equivalent such as Global-GAP.
“The requirement for suppliers to complete these certifications demonstrates our leadership in food safety and our commitment to global safety standards,” said J.P. Suarez, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and chief compliance officer, and a board member of the Global Food Safety Initiative, in a prepared statement last week. “Food safety has always been a top priority at Wal-Mart. We are taking this additional step to ensure the integrity of our products throughout the entire food supply chain. We encourage other U.S. retailers to follow our lead and to also endorse these standards.”
According to reports, suppliers will be required to complete initial certification between July and December 2008. They are required to be fully certified by July 2009.
CIES, which developed the GFSI standards in 2000 to help unify varying international programs, is scheduled to begin its annual Food Safety Conference this week in Amsterdam.