SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Food retailers are challenging Washington to recognize that regulations aren't the best way to make progress on a host of business issues.
On the same day that President Obama was inaugurated for a second term, a panel of retailers at FMI Midwinter here emphasized the need to lighten up on regulations on a number of fronts.
"We're an industry that's been forever providing food in the most effective way," said Judy Spires, CEO, AG Supermarket Holdings, during a discussion about food safety regulations. "Yet we feel under attack."
She said food safety "is a priority in our business, and we are proactive without having to have it legislated to us."
Steve Smith, president and CEO, K-VA-T Food Stores, said the food industry's proactive stances on the obesity issue demonstrates how effectively retailers and suppliers can act on their own. Referring to the Facts Up Front program, he said, "We didn't wait on government to mandate that for us. It was the right thing to do."
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Smith said regulations have had a negative impact in his company's markets, which are concentrated in mining areas.
"For a big part of our customer base, unemployment has gone from 5% four years ago to more than 10% today," he said. "A lot of it is due to regulations. People can't get permits to mine or even drill for natural gas in some cases. I don't see it getting better in the next four years."
Steve Burd, chairman and CEO, Safeway, said retailers are making big strides in reducing health care costs among their employees and lifting the well-being of these associates, and these are best practices that government can learn from.
"Since 2005 at Safeway, we flatlined our health care costs," he said. "The key is personal accountability, and dozens of other companies are doing similar things. He said Safeway has sharply reduced obesity rates among its employees, for example.
However, he added, government has yet to catch up to industry when it comes to creating progressive policies.
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