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updated 1/22/2006 7:36:08 PM ET 2006-01-23T00:36:08

No matter where the supermarket chains ranked in our survey, they all emphasize their  commitment to providing safe food to their customers. They also say if they find violations, they move to correct them as quickly as possible.

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Albertsons
At Albertsons, food safety and sanitation is a high priority in every one of our 2,500 stores. Even one critical health violation is too many. As a matter of policy, Albertsons carefully monitors all Health Department inspection reports and responds immediately to correct any violation. 

In addition to local Health Department inspections, Albertsons requires independent third party food safety and sanitation audits in all of our food stores multiple times a year. All audit findings requiring corrective action are escalated to food safety managers who are directed to immediately remedy each unsatisfactory situation.

We are disappointed, however, that during your visit to two of our stores you found some conditions that clearly do not meet our quality standards.  Albertsons associates are trained and required to follow strict procedures for sanitation and product rotation.  Any violation of this company policy is unacceptable.

We always encourage our customers to let us know when products or store conditions don’t meet their expectations.  Albertsons will continue to focus diligently on improving store conditions to ensure that we are consistently providing our customers with quality products and services. 

Costco
Costco's CEO Jim Sinegal was the only one who agreed to talk on camera.

Sinegal: I think the industry is trying to make certain that they are as clean and as safe as they can possibly be. Everyone realizes that perfection is not possible—we’re all fallible. To the extent that we have those violations? We're disappointed. We're disappointed in our managers and I put myself at the top of that list.

Re the traps in the Brooklyn store
Sinegal: There will be traps in there because we have to have traps. We can't talk them out as one of our managers said -- you have to go in and get 'em. And we do that. I can't acount for the fact that they get into the building because they get in everywhere where we do business.

Re the temperature problems
Sinegal: We spend a lot of time on that and try to make sure that we're correcting it.

( Click here to read an article about Costco Wholesale from Food Safety Magazine)

Food Marketing Institute
(the organization serving the needs of food distribution and related business, including grocery wholesalers and retail supermarkets.)

Food safety is the most important priority of all retail food stores. The supermarket industry’s goal is to provide safe and wholesome food at a reasonable cost through clean and sanitary establishments.  The US food industry does this better than any other country in the world. 

In terms of your piece, it is important to know that when critical violations are found, they are given the highest priority for immediate correction, often before the inspector leaves the store.  In many cases, the inspector will return within 24 hours to be sure the problem has been corrected. Public health inspectors will not allow food to be sold if there is a question about its safety.

Supermarkets are highly regulated by more than 3000 government bodies, including federal, state, county and city inspectors who monitor retail food store operations on a regular basis.  In addition, supermarket companies conduct routine self-inspections and use the services of outside, third-party auditors to measure food safety performance. Employees are trained in safe-handling practices and store managers must be prepared to be tested during public health inspections on their knowledge and understanding of the regulations and the application of food safety principles.

We are pleased you are highlighting consumer information on safe food handling.  Food safety is an important partnership and a shared responsibility from farm to table.  The supermarket industry, in partnership with government and consumer advocates, developed an extensive consumer information food safety program called FightBAC!®.  We invite you and your viewers to learn important food safety facts and tips at www.fmi.org.

Food Lion
Food Lion maintains stringent food safety practices that meet or exceed state and federal safety regulations. These food safety standards include associate food safety training and certification, quality insurance inspections, sanitation/pest control and management program, product recall procedures, an internal multi-tier food safety monitoring system, and third party audits. If on occasion, these high standards are not met, we take immediate corrective action because Food Lion is committed to providing our customers with fresh, wholesome food.

Kroger
Food Safety is Kroger's top priority. Our company has well-established policies in place to ensure the food items sold in our 2,500+ stores are prepared and handled safely for our customers.

Store audits are one tool we use to monitor compliance with safe food handling and preparation standards. Each year more than 15,000 food safety review (FSR) audits are conducted in our stores by third-party firms. That's equivalent to one comprehensive audit per store every 60 days. Store managers are responsible for immediately correcting any deficiencies and ensuring they remain corrected via follow-up inspections. Kroger also conducts its own store audits, which include reviewing temperature controls, equipment, and sanitation procedures.

Kroger has strict cleaning and sanitation policies for all food preparation equipment, including meat grinders. After each and every grind, the grinder must be broken down, cleaned with detergent, and completely sanitized. The date and time of cleaning is recorded in a "grinder log" kept in the meat department. Grinder logs are inspected during third-party food safety audits.

Training and education also are important tools in Kroger's safe food handling practices. In 2004, our company provided basic food-safety training to approximately 25,000 hourly store associates. All associates who work in our perishable departments, including the meat and deli areas, are required to pass a food safety course before working in their departments. In addition, more than 5,300 store managers completed an extensive food-safety certification course.

While our goal is always 100% compliance with safe handling requirements, we recognize that no food establishment is perfect. Human error or equipment malfunction can lead to a health code violation. These are considered serious issues that must be corrected immediately by our store management teams. Associates who intentionally fail to follow Kroger's policy on safe food handling are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.

Today more than ever, our customers expect Kroger to operate clean stores staffed by friendly, knowledgeable associates who have been trained to prepare and handle food safely. We must deliver nothing less.

Publix
We have received your correspondence and appreciate the opportunity to provide you with a written response. We have identified 3 clear areas for response: food safety, the proper storage and labeling of chemicals and the requirements of handling raw meat in the meat department.

We take food safety and proper handling very seriously. For more than 75 years our customers have relied on us to provide their families with safe and quality food products. To ensure we meet the expectations of our customers and associate stockholders, we have instituted an independent, quarterly evaluation of each of our 875 store locations across the five states in which we operate. This is in addition to the at minimum, bi-annual local and state health inspections. Our records reflect that the average store audit score for 2004 was a 93.5 percent. In addition, we mandate that our store management teams are food safety certified by FMI’s Super Safe Mark course and a scheduled re-certification.

Our policy for labeling chemicals is to prominently and clearly label all authorized chemicals necessary for the operational maintenance of the department. Chemicals are to be stored in separated compartments that are used for no other purpose. In order to prevent potential contamination, chemicals should not be stored above or intermingled with food, food equipment, utensils, or single-service articles. Any deviation from this practice would be against company policy.

We observe strict safety standards in our meat departments. It is very important that no glove is worn when operating a band saw; it is a severe safety hazard. There are no government-mandated requirements for meat cutters or meat wrappers to wear gloves when handling fresh meat product, since raw meat goes through a cooking step prior to the customer eating the product.

Safeway
The company said they are reviewing Dateline’s results but noted two years have passed since those health inspections were done. It said since then, Safeway has “continued to enhance and re-energize store adherence to our food safty and sanitation standards.”

Sam's Club
At Sam's Club, food safety is a non-negotiable priority in every location.  We are committed to providing safe, wholesome food to our members in a clean retail environment and at excellent value.

Although a violation may indicate that something in a club does not conform to a State or local code, it does not necessarily mean that food in the club is unsafe.  Neither our management nor public health inspectors would allow food to be sold in a club if the health and safety of our members would be at risk.

If and when a violation is identified in a club, we take action to correct it immediately, often while the inspector is still present.

At Sam's Club, we know that the strong relationships we have with our members are based on trust.  That’s why Sam's Club is committed to keeping its locations safe and clean.

Save-a-lot
They said when they find problems they are “committed to immediate remedial action”

Wal-Mart
At Wal-Mart, food safety is a non-negotiable priority in every store.  We are committed to providing safe, wholesome food to our customers in a clean retail environment and at excellent value.

Although a violation may indicate that something in a store does not conform to a State or local code, it does not necessarily mean that food in the store is unsafe.  Neither our management nor public health inspectors would allow food to be sold in a store if the health and safety of our customers would be at risk.

If and when a violation is identified in a store, we take action to correct it immediately, often while the inspector is still present.

At Wal-Mart, we know that the strong relationships we have with our customers are based on trust.  That’s why Wal-Mart is committed to keeping its stores safe and clean.

Winn-Dixie
Winn-Dixie is committed to providing our customers with fresh, safe, wholesome food— the same food we feed our own families. We maintain sanitation and other programs to assist us in complying with our internal standards, as well as local, state, and federal, food and safety codes. If an issue comes to our attention, we take prompt action to address any concerns.

Winn Dixie has been serving our neighbors for more than 80 years. We take seriously the trust our customers place in us. We continue to work hard everyday to deserve that trust.

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