Major retailers talk food safety


If you're looking to work with Loblaw or Metro in the near future, it'd help to know their current take on food safety. And that's just what Andrew Clappen, vice-president of food safety, quality assurance and regulatory affairs at Loblaw Companies and Jeff Hall, director of quality assurance at Metro, shared at the Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit near Toronto in October.

Both Hall and Clappen focus on food safety in their roles. When explaining key food initiatives currently in the works at Metro, Hall said the company's biggest initiative is getting behind the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), a joint effort amongst some of the world's top food safety experts from retailer, manufacturer and food service companies, as well as service providers involved in the food supply chain.

Hall pointed out that the grocery industry as a whole recognized "they were getting audited to death." Metro is getting behind GFSI from a private label standpoint. And over the next few years, the company wants its produce managers to be onboard with a GSFI-compliant system. As Hall summarized, the company takes food safety seriously because "No one has the right to make any of my customers sick."

At Loblaw, which Clappen says has more than 800 vendors across the world, a new set of vendor standards has been issued. Vendors have been mandated to be certified to one of the GFSI certifications. Loblaw's buying team can only source products from manufacturers that abide by GFSI standards, he said. Loblaw starts with food safety as a foundation, said Clappen, then "it's all about consistency with food quality."

To that end, Hall left attendees with some food for thought. "Food safety as an industry is not a competitive issue." For example, whether his company or another grocer makes a customer sick with food it sells, it affects the entire grocery industry. On the other hand, he said quality is the responsibility of each individual organization. "We each decide what we carry," said Hall.

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