HHS Food Safety Task Force Tours Associated Grocers DC, Matherne's Store

ARLINGTON, Va. -- In a meeting coordinated by the National Grocers Association (NGA) here and one of its members, Associated Grocers of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael Leavitt and his task force on food safety visited the Associated Grocers' distribution center and Matherne's Supermarket yesterday.

The visit was scheduled as a part of HHS' across-the-board review of food safety, with a focus on imported products. Last month President Bush asked Leavitt to chair a working group dedicated to promoting the safety of imported items.

HHS Secretary Michel Leavitt and his group met with Associated Grocers officers, including president and c.e.o. J.H. Campbell. The group toured the facility, stopping at the general grocery, dairy, produce, and meat warehouses.

Next on the itinerary was a visit to local independent retailer and NGA member Matherne's Associated Super Market, where the group met with owner Ernie Matherne and store manager Tim Stevens. The task force was able to walk through the store and talk with department managers and shoppers.

"Recent events have understandably focused Americans on the issue of safety of our food," noted NGA president and c.e.o. Tom Zaucha in a statement. "Continually improving our import safeguards to meet the changing demands of a global economy is of the utmost importance. NGA members welcome the opportunity to be involved in and play a leadership role to improve consumer confidence in our food supply."

NGA represents the retail and wholesale grocers comprising the independent sector of the food distribution industry. Members include retail and wholesale grocers and state grocers associations, along with manufacturers and service suppliers.
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