CGA Testifies at Senate Informational Hearing on Consumer Food issues


Contact: Dave Heylen, V.P. Communications California Grocers Association
Tel: 916.448.3545
Fax: 916.448.2793
E-mail: [email protected]

California Grocers Association
1415 L Street, Suite 450
Sacramento, CA 95814

SACRAMENTO, CA – (March 5, 2009) – While California grocers react quickly to product recalls, the speed in which retailers respond depends on the quality of information received, CGA Vice President of Government Relations Keri Bailey told the Senate Food & Agriculture Committee at the first of a series of information hearings scheduled to address consumer food issues.

Thursday’s hearing, chaired by Sen. Dean Florez (D-Bakersfield), focused on the ongoing Peanut Company of America (PCA) peanut product recall and whether state agencies and the grocery industry are doing enough to protect consumers. More than 3,000 product recalls directly related to salmonella-tainted peanut products from the PCA plant in Bentley, Georgia have been issued in the last three months.

Bailey emphasized to the committee the importance grocers put on food safety. She said grocery retailers have procedures in place to quickly remove recalled product from store shelves, adding that the speed with which grocers are able to implement these procedures largely depends on the quality of information received. Bailey indicated the best solution for consumers is for food to arrive at the grocery store untainted and urged the panel to explore addressing the recall issue on the front end with manufacturers.

“In most instances,” Bailey said in submitted testimony, “grocers are very similarly situated to consumers when a recall happens. They are involved only after the fact – after a series of system and protections on the front end of food production have failed.”

Bailey fielded a number of committee questions centered on grocery retailers’ recall procedures and whether grocers could do more to assure recall items not reach consumers. Florez, who recently introduced legislation (SB 550) that would require grocers to upgrade programmable scanner systems to alert checkers and consumers if a recalled product is scanned, called grocers the “last line of defense,” and insisted they can do more to protect consumers in the event of a recall.

Bailey said that in addition to recall processes to remove improperly manufactured food, grocers also have stringent systems in place throughout transportation, receiving and storage of products that help ensure that food stays safe for consumers, she added.

CGA’s testimony was preceded by Jeff Farrar, Chief, Food and Drug Branch of the California Department of Public Health who drew strong criticism from committee members concerned about the Branch’s product recall procedures.

Other speakers included representatives from Food and Water Watch, the California Department of Education and the California School Nutrition Association.

“We appreciate Senator Florez and the committee seeking input from the grocery industry regarding this very important topic,” said CGA President and CEO Ronald Fong. “It is apparent the Senator and his committee share the same concerns our members have in providing the safest possible food product available to our customers. We hope to work closely with Senator Florez and other partners in strengthening the state’s recall system.”

The California Grocers Association is a non-profit, statewide trade association representing the food industry since 1898. CGA represents approximately 500 retail members operating over 6,000 food stores in California and Nevada, and approximately 200 grocery supplier companies. Retail membership includes chain and independent supermarkets, convenience stores and mass merchandisers.