Retailers Join 'Be Food Safe' Initiative

Nearly 40 different retailers and the Defense Commissary Agency (DECA) have pledged to join "Be Food Safe," a cooperative government, industry, and consumer group effort to reach millions of consumers with important food safety information, in the year ahead, the Food Marketing Institute said yesterday.

Be Food Safe, originally launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Partnership for Food Safety Education, encourages retailers to display food safety messages and visual reminders in front of customers through in-store promotions, brochures, flyers, packaging, circular ads, and other forms of customer outreach.

"Several retailers have already planned or begun activities around the campaign," Shelley Feist, executive director of Partnership for Food Safety Education, told Progressive Grocer yesterday. "Some of the ideas our steering group has discussed for future customer interaction include: cooking school/food demo tie-ins, store tours, info for kids, shopping bags, cooking contests for kids, retailer TV/radio campaigns, private label packaging tie-ins, and seasonal promotion tie-ins."

Nearly 40 retailers, representing approximately 6,000 supermarkets and an estimated 81 million consumers, have volunteered to implement Be Food Safe through their in-store and external customer communications programs. The campaign encourages the use of colorful, modular icons and photography to illustrate the basic safe food handling practices of clean, separate, cook, and chill.

According to research conducted by the Partnership, 64 percent of consumers say it is ìvery importantî to follow safe food handling at home, yet many consumers are not consistent in doing so. The same study found that consumers believed it was ìvery importantî to educate the public on safe food handling, with most believing that food companies and the government should provide this information.

"The Partnershipís work with food retailers will help us keep food safety top-of-mind with people who shop for and prepare food at home," said Feist. ìIt is important that consumers receive frequent reminders of the importance of safe food handling to reduce the risk of illness."

While the overall rate of foodborne illness has been declining, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that an estimated one in four Americans suffers from foodborne illness each year.  

Odonna Mathews of Odonna Mathews Consulting, who is working with the Partnership on Be Food Safe, told Progressive Grocer, "With consumer confidence down to 66 percent of shoppers saying they are mostly or completely confident in the safety of the food supply, I believe that retailers and manufacturers can increase their confidence by providing food safety consumer information. Consumers are looking for this type of information.

"With all the recalls this past year, retailers are looking for ways to be proactive with their customers, and the Be Food Safe materials provide one way to do that. Innovative manufacturers will look for ways to partner with licensed retailers to develop positive messages and promotions tied to various seasons of the year," said Mathews.

Participating retailers include: Acme Markets; Albertsons LLC; Associated Food Stores, Inc.; Atlantic Food Mart; Inc.; Big Y Foods, Inc.; Brookshire Grocery Company; Brown & Cole Stores; Buehler’s Fresh Foods; Coburn’s Inc.; Dorothy Lane Market, Inc.; Fairview Foods, Inc. / Piggly Wiggly of Calhoun, Inc.; Fiesta Mart, Inc.; Food Lion LLC; Giant Food LLC /Stop & Shop;  Giant Food Stores LLC, Carlisle, PA; Giant Eagle, Inc.; Haggen, Inc.; Hannaford Bros. Co.; Highland Park Market, Inc.; Ingles Markets, Inc.; Kings Super Markets, Inc.; Lund Food Holdings, Inc.; Meijer, Inc.; People’s Food Cooperative, Inc.; Price Chopper Supermarkets; Publix Super Market, Inc.; Roundy’s Supermarkets, Inc.; Rudy’s Markets, Inc.; Safeway, Inc.; Save Mart Supermarkets; Schnuck Markets, Inc.; ShopRite; Soelberg’s Market; Sweetbay Supermarket; Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.; and Weis Markets, Inc.
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