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Store Brands and Food Safety

In this Brave New World of bioterrorism, retailers who truly value their own in-house brands are presenting vendors with a Yellow Pages-size stack of forms to fill in for food safety purposes. All I can say is “Bring it on - it’s about time!”

The question I ask myself is why it took a terrorist attack to finally focus attention to the products pouring into our food supply.

One of the perks of my job is traveling the world to visit factories that manufacture food products. That said, one can only imagine what I’ve witnessed over the years — a veritable Clint Eastwood feast of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”!

I am not sure that I can always consider this aspect of my job a perk. When you are living out of a suitcase for weeks on end, washing undergarments in the hotel sink, exhausted from too much travel, too much food, too much stimulation and far too little sleep, you finally arrive home only to have folks ask about your vacation!

A vacation for me means that I can set aside worrying about quality issues for a few short days, knowing that I’ve done my part.

The majority of factories that I visit abroad are BRC and IFS audited, and the U.S. facilities are third-party checked as well. More and more retailers are jumping on this food safety bandwagon. Frankly, it’s high time this happened.

What still concerns me is the handful of major retailers who do not demand this level of security for their own brands. That’s a head scratcher, considering these times in which we live. That, coupled with the fact that more than half of America is buying private label brands, makes me work all that harder to ensure that the projects I handle all come with the motto: “Safety first.”

All it takes is baby steps to ensure the consistent quality and safety of our food supply.