US grocery association launches food safety plan to cut salmonella

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety, Consumer protection

The US Grocery Manufacturers Association has launched what it terms “wide ranging” initiatives to step up protection against food-borne illnesses including salmonella.

The projects, which follow last year’s fatal outbreak of salmonella traced to Georgia peanuts, focus on: Modernising product recalls, third-party food safety audits of manufacturers and updating the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for food.

Product recalls will be quicker and more efficient with the help of an internet-based recall system developed by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the standards organization GS1US, said the GMA.

Third party audits of manufacturers’ plants should be encouraged as a way of ensuring the rigour and integrity of the certification processes.

International standards

Auditors should be employed by certification bodies accredited to international standards by recognized organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), said the association. Also the GMA pledged to work with other public and private partners, including FMI, to develop, implement and promote certification systems.

Updated GMPs are another essential means of safeguarding consumers against food-borne illnesses. The association is to provide industry-wide training and education to ensure rapid uptake of GMPs.

The food industry is ultimately responsible for the safety of its products​,” said Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and CEO. “We take that responsibility very seriously and want our consumers and policymakers to know that we are vigilant when it comes to product safety and consumer protection. We are stepping up to the plate, taking responsibility and developing innovative reforms to improve the safety of our products​.

Food recalls

Combined with quick enactment of the necessary legislative and regulatory reforms, these initiatives should significantly reduce the number and type of food recalls we have seen in recent years and strengthen our overall food safety system,​” she said.

But according to one US consumer group, the new initiatives although welcome do not go far enough. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at the Consumers Union, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the most effective solution to food-borne illnesses was updated food safety rules, more federal inspections and more regulatory oversight.

Companies such as the Peanut Corporation of America (implicated in last year’s salmonella outbreak) were already supposed to adhere to voluntary rules like the ones the Grocery Manufacturers Association advocates, he said.

Meanwhile, the percentage of US consumers who believe that supermarket food is safe has dropped in recent years, according to a new study by the NPD Group. The percentage of Americans who trust the safety of supermarket foods has fallen from to 63 per cent from 68 per cent over the past five years, reports the study.

Commenting on the results, Harry Balzer, the company’s chief industry analyst and vice president said: "I believe that consumers' slipping confidence in the safety of supermarket food is less about food safety and more about supermarkets expanding foodservice operations and offering more prepared ready-to-eat foods​."

Related topics: Suppliers, Food safety and labeling

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