BENTONVILLE, Ark., Feb. 4, 2008 – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has become the first nationwide U.S. grocery chain to require suppliers of its private label and other food products such as produce, meat, fish, poultry and ready-to-eat foods to have their factories certified against one of the internationally recognized Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards.
A group of major international retailers committed to strengthening consumer confidence in the food they purchase, the GFSI now lists Wal-Mart among the companies who have agreed to improve food safety through a higher and consistent auditing standard.
Selected by CIES ( http://www.ciesnet.com/), the Food Business Forum, to safeguard and ensure high quality in the international food supply chain, GFSI standards provide real time details on where suppliers fall short in food safety on a plant-by-plant basis, and go beyond the current FDA or USDA required audit process. Under the GFSI program, producers of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club private label and other foods sold in the U.S. must be audited by independently trained, approved and licensed auditors who are experts in their industry.
“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 board member of the Global Food Safety Initiative. “Food safety has always been a top priority at Wal-Mart. 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.”
The GFSI requires food suppliers to achieve factory audit certification against one of its recognized standards, which include Safe Quality Food (SQF), British Retail Consortium (BRC), International Food Standard (IFS), or an equivalent such as Global-GAP. 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.
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.
“Our customers expect high quality at every day low prices when they purchase any of our private label foods, and we’re committed to meeting – and exceeding – their expectations,” said Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president, private brands. “The GFSI standards are an added step that will help us – and our U.S. food producers – keep our quality commitment.”
Internationally, Wal-Mart stores in the United Kingdom (ASDA) and Japan (Seiyu) also require suppliers of food products to comply with GFSI standards.
The Global Food Safety Initiative was launched in May 2000 to establish food safety management systems to ensure confidence in the delivery of safe food to consumers. The initiative has fostered a convergence among food safety standards, achieved cost efficiencies through common acceptance of GFSI recognized standards, and provided a forum for exchange of best food safety practices.
About Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT)
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. operates Wal-Mart discount stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Club locations in the United States. The Company operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom. Wal-Mart serves more than 176 million customers weekly in 14 markets. The Company’s securities are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WMT. For more information: www.walmartfacts.com.