The retailers—Costco, Kroger, Walmart, Wegman’s, and Yum Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell)—fully endorse the recommendations of the Leafy Greens Food Safety Task Force—which includes the Arizona Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, the Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Produce Association, and other parties. The task force convened after Escherichia coli outbreaks attributed to the consumption of leafy greens swept the U.S. in 2017 and 2018. In total, three foodborne illness outbreaks that were tied to either leafy greens or romaine lettuce resulted in almost 300 illnesses and 6 deaths across the U.S.
The new coalition group plans to work with suppliers to implement science-based best practices. Although there is a sense of urgency, each of the five companies will have the freedom to choose when their suppliers need to follow new food safety requirements.
Also involved with the coalition will be:
- Mike Taylor, co-chairman of STOP Foodborne Illness and former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Mike Robach, CEO of the Robach Group and former vice president of corporate food safety, quality, and regulatory affairs at Cargill
Costco’s statement: “Costco certainly supports the recommendations of the task force and sees them as a great first step,”
Kroger’s statement: “As a leader in food safety, The Kroger Co. recognizes the need for an integrated food safety approach to ensure fresh leafy greens remain safe and readily available for our customers. We commend the efforts of the industry produce task force and fully support its recommendations.”
Wegmans’ statement: “We endorse [the task force] and will continue to tighten our food safety specifications, especially around water quality, (concentrated animal feeding operations) distances and dust particles as more scientific research becomes available,”
In additional efforts to support better traceability across the food supply chain, Kroger and Walmart both joined IBM’s blockchain collaboration in 2017.
The new Leafy Greens Safety Coalition has reportedly already had one in-person meeting with officials from the FDA, and more collaboration is planned for the near future.