Wal-Mart Adopts GFSI Standards, Requires Suppliers to Comply by End of '08

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced that it has become the first nationwide U.S. grocer to adopt the standards of the Global Food Safety Initiative, a group of international ratailers committed to strengthening consumer confidence in food safety. All suppliers of Wal-Mart's private label and other food items including produce, meat, and fish, must comply with GFSI-recognized standards, the retailer said, adding that these standards go beyond the current audit process required by the U.S. FDA and Department of Agriculture.

Under the GFSI program, producers of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club private label and other foods sold in the United States must be audited by independently trained, approved, and licensed auditors who are experts in their industry, the retailer said. In addition, the program, of which Wal-Mart is now a member, provides real-time details on where suppliers fall short in food safety on a plant-by-plant basis.

"The requirement for suppliers to complete these certifications demonstrates our leadership in food safety and our commitment to global safety standards," said J.P. Suarez, Wal-Mart's senior vice president and chief compliance officer, and a GFSI board member. "We are taking this additional step to ensure the integrity of our products throughout the entire food supply chain. We encourage other U.S. retailers to follow our lead and to also endorse these standards."

Wal-Mart has published a schedule to suppliers requiring completion of initial certification between July and December of 2008, with full certification required by July 2009. Audits will be completed by approved third party auditing companies, it said. Wal-Mart private label food brands in the U.S. are Great Value and Sam's Choice. Sam's Club private label food brands in the U.S. include Member's Mark and Bakers & Chefs. The retailer added that the GFSI requirements will extend to subsidiaries Asda (in the United Kingdom) and Seiyu (in Japan).

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