WILD OATS TIES BONUSES TO SAFETY SCORES

BOULDER, Colo. -- Wild Oats Natural Marketplace bolsters its efforts to ensure store-level food safety with employee compensation incentives.The 101-unit chain, which was already using an internal safe-practices scoring system, began a little over a year ago to tie those scores to its annual bonus program with good results, officials said. The system is credited with helping to eliminate the possibility

BOULDER, Colo. -- Wild Oats Natural Marketplace bolsters its efforts to ensure store-level food safety with employee compensation incentives.

The 101-unit chain, which was already using an internal safe-practices scoring system, began a little over a year ago to tie those scores to its annual bonus program with good results, officials said. The system is credited with helping to eliminate the possibility of contamination by Listeria monocytogenes and other pathogens.

Though they may be free of pathogens when they arrive at the store, loaf lunch meats, for example, become vulnerable when they're opened to be sliced in the service deli.

"The real challenge is employee sanitation, making sure they wash their hands and sanitize work surfaces. That's incredibly important in the protection of customers," said Mary Mulry, Wild Oats' senior director of product development and standards.

The chain's stores overall are scored several times a year when an internal team makes unannounced inspections. The scores are fed into the overall store's performance matrix for bonuses, said Sonia Tuitele, Wild Oats' spokeswoman.

"Since one department can affect the entire store's score, everybody takes this seriously," said Tuitele, adding that the chain uses Charlotte, N.C.-based Steritech for additional inspections. Other chains -- among them, Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis -- also are using internal scoring systems in addition to outside inspections to help fight store-level contamination.