NEWS WATCH

USDA RESISTS RELEASING STORE NAMES IN RECALLSculture and consumer rights groups tussled last week over a proposal that would force suppliers who announce food recalls to name the retailers who carry the products. USDA officials testified before a congressional committee that the agency has the power to compel companies to name retailers, but fears court challenges to such an order would delay dissemination

USDA RESISTS RELEASING STORE NAMES IN RECALLS

culture and consumer rights groups tussled last week over a proposal that would force suppliers who announce food recalls to name the retailers who carry the products. USDA officials testified before a congressional committee that the agency has the power to compel companies to name retailers, but fears court challenges to such an order would delay dissemination of critical recall information. Consumer groups argued that store and restaurant names are important, since much of the public doesn't know how to decipher package information containing plant and identification numbers currently used to identify recalled products.

SAFEWAY'S EASTERN DIV. FACES $7.5 MILLION LAWSUIT

PLEASANTON, Calif. -- An African-American employee for Safeway's Maryland-based Eastern division is suing the chain for $7.5 million for passing him over for a promotion that went to a white employee who the complaint claims is less qualified. In a civil suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Calvin Stover, a 15-year Safeway employee, said he is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $2.5 million and punitive damages in excess of $5 million for "emotional and mental distress" resulting from Safeway's "negligent conduct." A Safeway spokesman told SN the chain had not yet been served with the suit but is committed "to non-discrimination in hiring practices and actively promotes diversity throughout the company."

WEB SITE 'SILENCED' BY U.S. FOODSERVICE

COLUMBIA, Md. -- A Web site that has published what it said were internal memos by executives at U.S. Foodservice here said last week it was "being temporarily silenced" by the troubled food-service company. A message on the site's "News & Comment" section read, "In response to a formal demand by Robert S. Brennen, Miles & Stockbridge, P.C., on behalf of U.S. Foodservice, this page of the site is being temporarily silenced." However, late last week the site, foodservicerumors.com, was less than completely mute and featured what it said was an internal memo from David Whipple, executive vice president and chief human resource officer at U.S. Foodservice, that told employees their only response when contacted by the media should be to say, "No comment." The site is maintained by Steve Hoschler, who, according to published reports, is a food-industry veteran currently working as a fifth-grade teacher in California. Hoschler, Brennen (a Baltimore attorney) and U.S. Foodservice could not be reached for immediate comment.

UNION STEPS UP EFFORT TO ORGANIZE GENUARDI'S

PLYMOUTH MEETING, Pa. -- United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 here said nearly 300 workers attended a rally Wednesday to kick off the local's effort to organize workers at Genuardi's, Norristown, Pa., a 42-store division of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif. The rally was held near Genuardi's headquarters, Wendell Young IV, Local 1776's executive vice president, told SN. He said after two years of Safeway management, the workers "have learned that Safeway is a different animal [from local family ownership]," and the local will now seek to get Genuardi's workers to sign union cards. Safeway could not be reached for immediate comment.

GMA ON THE MOVE IN WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON -- Grocery Manufacturers of America said last week its new address as of March 24 will be 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, DC 20037. GMA's phone numbers will remain the same.