Wakefern Veep Testifies Before House on Food Safety

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Wakefern Veep Testifies Before House on Food Safety

Food retailers have implemented comprehensive systems to make sure the food they sell is safe and, in the event of a recall, to quickly remove products and warn shoppers, Wakefern Food Corp. VP, quality assurance Mike Ambrosio testified this week before the House Small Business Subcommittee on Regulations and Healthcare.

“Our stores have many prevention programs in place to protect our customers, such as consumer education programs, employee food safety training, extensive sanitation programs and food safety management systems,” he said at the hearing “The Impact of Food Recalls on Small Businesses.” Ambrosio attended the hearing on behalf his company and the Food Marketing Institute at the hearing.

During the hearing, the executive described Wakefern’s recall procedures in detail, for the benefit of the assembled representatives. He stressed, however how important it was that “grocers be able to employ a variety of different notification methods based on what works best for their customers and their ability to reach as many consumers as possible.”

In the last fiscal year, according to Ambrosio, Wakefern retailers had 214 recalls, including 27 Class I and 43 pharmacy recalls. Company employees spent 2,140 hours, the equivalent and 305 working days, dealing with these recalls. The time to implement the recalls linked to peanut butter and paste this fiscal year will be considerably higher, he noted.

Ambrosio also described FMI’s policy in favor of giving the Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to mandate the recall of a potentially unsafe product if the manufacturer won’t initiate a voluntary one.

He additionally spoke about the Arlington, Va.-based trade group’s product recall portal for suppliers, retailers and wholesalers, which was launched with GS1 US. Suppliers can use the Web-based service to rapidly send complete, standardized descriptions of recalled products to retailers and wholesalers.

Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern is a cooperative owned and operated by 45 independent retailers that operate stores under the ShopRite banner in the Northeast.