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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will implement enhanced poultry safety measures for suppliers, as a way to further protect customers from foodborne illnesses. The new guidelines join the mega-retailer's food safety program requiring prevention-based certification against one of the Global Food Safety Initiative's (GFSI) internationally recognized standards.
Under the new program, Walmart and Sam's Club U.S. poultry suppliers must implement holistic controls from farm to fork, with the aim of significantly reducing potential contamination levels, including chicken parts. Suppliers must also undergo specialized testing to prove that the measures they've put in place are effective. All poultry suppliers must comply with the new requirements by June 2016.
"At Walmart and Sam's Club, we are committed to providing our customers with safe, quality foods," said VP for Food Safety Frank Yiannas. "As part of our continuous improvement process, we determined it was important to require additional layers of protection for our customers."
The new protocol was reviewed with various stakeholders, among them consumer groups, regulators, academicians, poultry suppliers and industry associations.
According to Dr. Chris Braden, director of The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) division of foodborne, waterborne, and environmental diseases, which worked with Walmart on the initiative: "CDC, along with Walmart, recognizes that reducing Salmonella and other pathogen contamination in poultry products is a crucial step towards decreasing the burden of foodborne illnesses. Walmart and CDC working together to protect public health and advance food safety is a great example of a public-private partnership that benefits everyone."
"Walmart's implementation of enhanced safety measures for poultry products provides leadership for the food industry and continues a progressive approach to providing the safest possible food," noted Dr. Gary R. Acuff, director of the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety. "This is a smart, science-supported move that will greatly benefit consumers."
Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart operates 11,202 stores under 71 banners in 27 countries, and e-commerce websites in 11 countries, employing more than 2 million associates worldwide.