Food Safety Stance

The Lempert Report
May 10, 2013

Wholesale food clubs are showing they are not just good for price, and variety, but their stance on food safety.

Wholesale food clubs are showing they are not just good for price, and variety, but their stance on food safety. Costco, for instance, has a food-safety staff of 27, led by VP of Food Safety and Quality, R. Craig Wilson. All managers at Costcos’ 600+ clubs take a food-training course every three years. All hourly food-handlers are certified in food safety annually through Costco’s online instruction. All buyers are certified in food safety by an internal Costco program, Moreover, the chain’s quality assurance arm analyzes food samples against buyers’ specifications. Wilson told Food Safety that when Costco performs pathogen tests, it uses “polymerase chain reaction technology all the way through” He goes on to explain, “Our ground beef operation [in Tracy, CA] produces about half a million pounds of ground beef a day, both raw and cooked. We can effectively collect and analyze data on the microbiological quality of every single grind.” According to The New York Times, Costco began to test beef trimmings for E.coli before grinding after a 1998 incident in which a woman was sickened by its hamburger meat and a recall ensued. And Costco’s not the only one. By 2012, slaughterhouse suppliers to Sam’s Club and Walmart had to comply with stricter beef safety measures imposed by the retail giant; non-slaughterhouse suppliers had to comply by 2011. New process-control rules went beyond established requirements for ground-beef suppliers to test for E.coli and to be prevention-certified against a Global Food Safety Initiative standard. All this emphasis on Food Safety gives customers confidents. And there’s no doubt that customer confidence can pay off; food reportedly accounts for 21% of sales, and fresh food for 13% of sales at Costco.