ALBERTSON'S TAKES STEPS TO ENSURE SAFETY OF PRODUCE

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertson's has announced that it is requiring independent certification of all produce sold in its stores by April 20, 2000. The rules apply not just to those items typically consumed raw or uncooked, or those prone to causing food-borne illness.In a letter sent to one certifying firm, Scientific Certification Systems, Oakland, Calif., Albertson's officials stated that all of its

BOISE, Idaho -- Albertson's has announced that it is requiring independent certification of all produce sold in its stores by April 20, 2000. The rules apply not just to those items typically consumed raw or uncooked, or those prone to causing food-borne illness.

In a letter sent to one certifying firm, Scientific Certification Systems, Oakland, Calif., Albertson's officials stated that all of its fresh produce suppliers must develop safe product manuals, conduct self audits using criteria from those manuals, post results of the self audits on a Web site or similar location for review, and have an independent third-party audit verify conformance with good agricultural practices.

Other companies besides SCS approved immediately by the chain include PrimusLabs.com, Salinas, Calif., and the American Institute of Baking, Manhattan, Kan. Specifically, the retailer is asking grower/shippers to base their efforts on the Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, published last year by the federal Food and Drug Administration, Washington.

Albertson's owns and operates some 1,700 food stores across the country under various banners, and the decision is likely to have a significant impact on suppliers as they are recruited to share responsibility in the selling of produce, according to industry observers. In April, 1999, Safeway set a precedent when it announced that certain fresh fruits and vegetables had to be screened for microbes.