FMI SURVEY FINDS RETAILERS STRONG ON FOOD SAFETY

WASHINGTON -- Research conducted by the Food Marketing Institute found that 93.6% of supermarkets have a food-safety training program for store associates, though most of them are conducted on an "as-needed" basis.The findings were part of the larger Speaks industry overview presented annually at FMI's convention in Chicago.Larger operators, primarily those doing more than $500 million in sales, exposed

WASHINGTON -- Research conducted by the Food Marketing Institute found that 93.6% of supermarkets have a food-safety training program for store associates, though most of them are conducted on an "as-needed" basis.

The findings were part of the larger Speaks industry overview presented annually at FMI's convention in Chicago.

Larger operators, primarily those doing more than $500 million in sales, exposed more employees to the basics of food safety, regardless of their level in the company. Most of these training sessions are conducted on an intermittent basis, with 14.3% holding them four times a year, and 11.4% conducting them either once or twice a year. Of these retailers, only those with $501 million to $1 billion enjoyed a 100% rating -- the highest for all sizes of operators.

Steady growth in the number of minorities in the food-service business has created an increased need for multilingual or cross-cultural food-safety training programs. FMI's industry snapshot found one in five companies, regardless of size, offer bilingual programs. But researchers concluded it is more popular in chains, primarily those located in cultural centers such as New York, Miami and Chicago.

The study found that retail-level Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point-trained individuals are a strong presence in supermarkets today, with nearly 67% of companies of all sizes having a trained individual on site. The numbers experienced a wide range, however, from100% of companies in the Northeast and Southeast/mid-South regions, to 35.7% -- the number of operators in the Pacific region found to have HACCP-trained individuals on site. The data also showed HACCP training is much more common at chains (83.3 %) than at independent stores (38.9%).

Another part of the food-safety equation -- audits and reviews -- also made a strong showing, with eight of 10 companies conducting in-house, food-safety audits, and just over 58% using a third-party firm to do the job. A vast majority of all operators stated they conducted reviews of their safeguard procedures, employing a variety of methods: internal review (70.8%); regulatory inspections (56.3%); outside review (39.6%); and peer/cross-functional review (27.1%).

All the effort seems to be paying off. An FMI national survey of consumers found 81% are confident that the food they purchase from their favorite retailers is safe.