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Save Mart's Drug-testing Program Pays Off

MODESTO, Calif. -- Save Mart Supermarkets, a 120-store grocery chain based here, said yesterday that its employee drug-testing program using Canton, Mass.-based Avitar's ORALScreen Drugometer has resulted in lower turnover and workers' compensation incident rates, as well as the hiring of better employees.

The test is administered by swabbing the inside of the cheek. "Save Mart was repeatedly losing potential hires due to the lengthy urine-testing process we had used," noted the grocer's director of loss prevention, Jim Pucci. "Urine testing took four days on average, while we now get results in five to 15 minutes with Avitar's product. Sample substitution and contamination were also [issues] with urine testing. Oral testing virtually eliminates the possibility of adulteration, since the test is performed during the job interview under direct observation." Additionally, employers can administer the Drugometer themselves on-site, without worrying about the gender-related issues related to urine testing.

Save Mart, which adopted ORALScreen testing a little over three years ago, was the first company to implement the prototype Drugometer program late last year, Pucci told Progressive Grocer.

Save Mart's workers' compensation incident rate has plunged 17 percent, its employee turnover rate is now 20 points lower than the industry average, and the company is no longer losing out on job candidates, since they can be hired immediately, said Pucci. "We've come to rely on. . .the on-site oral fluid drug screening as a standard practice at Save Mart," he added.

Pucci said that association between his company and Avitar began when his administrative assistant read an article in a magazine about the ORALScreen system, prompting Pucci to initiate contact with Avitar. The system "has made a world of change for us," he noted, adding, "We have not had any negativity" with job candidates who have undergone testing. Pucci summed up the program as "an extremely smooth process."

In a phone interview with PG, Avitar v.p. of marketing Peter Cholakis noted that it is only after two to three years that a retailer can see the improvements that result from the adoption of oral testing settle into a permanent trend.

According to Avitar, the ORALScreen Drugometer is the most accurate saliva-based drug test on the market, detecting 99 percent of the drugs people abuse in the workplace, among them marijuana; cocaine; opiates, including OxyContin and oxycodone; and methamphetamines, including ecstasy.
-- Bridget Goldschmidt
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