February 12, 1999

Dear Grower/Shipper:

Scientists and nutritionists recommend that consumers include several servings of fresh fruit and vegetables in their daily diets. However, along with information about the health benefits of consuming fresh produce, the general public is being bombarded with news about produce implicated in E.coli, salmonella, cyclospora, clostidium, and shigella outbreaks. Consequently, while fresh produce is one of the most important and nutritious products we carry, it is also becoming one of the most customer-sensitive. Indeed, in response to the outbreaks of foodborne illness, the federal government has created a "food czar" to centralize, regulate, and enforce food safety programs.

In response to these changing dynamics, Safeway is expanding its produce buying safety program. With the help of produce growing and handling professionals, we are initiating a scientifically based audit program. As a condition of doing business with Safeway, growers and shippers of certain agricultural commodities will be required to participate in a verifiable, independent third-party food safety audit. The program will focus initially on produce which has been implicated in food-borne illness outbreaks by the Center for Disease Control or FDA, or which has otherwise been identified as a high risk for potential contamination. Once the produce safety program is in place, we will purchase produce only from growers/shippers meeting the objective standards necessary to be certified under the program.

Certification and Audit Parameters

These audits will encompass your growing processes and handling procedures. The audit system will verify compliance with good agricultural and manufacturing practices (GAPs and GMPs) -- which most grower associations and the government have recommended for some time. Audit parameters will include:

  • Ranch history
  • Adjacent land use
  • Harvest practices
  • Transportation
  • Food production and handling practices verification during:
  •  1. Growing
    2. Harvesting
    3. Coding
    4. Storage
        Dry storage
        Cold storage
        Modified atmospheric storage

    Independent Third-Party Auditors and Audits

    We have identified several independent third-party auditors (ITPAs) to work with us initially. (A list of approved ITPAs is enclosed.) These ITPAs will conduct their audits in a standardized fashion. You may select from any of the approved ITPAs. If you are interested in working with an ITPA that does not appear on the approved list, please bring it to our attention. Although we are willing to consider and, if appropriate, accept certification from other ITPAs, Safeway will have final discretion regarding approved ITPAs.

    Although the audit/certification process may introduce a small additional cost of doing business, we hope and believe that this type of program will become a standard for improving the produce industry's food safety efforts. Consequently, Safeway will not restrict your use of the ITPA results. We invite you to share this independent verification of your compliance with safe food growing and handling practices with your other customers and potential customers. Indeed, any small additional cost should be of significant value to growers and suppliers in the near future as the industry strives to meet consumers' and government concerns about fresh produce safety.

    Implementation of Program

    You have until March 22, 1999 to notify Safeway that you have a confirmed date for an initial review and survey of your ranch, land, or growing or shipping operation by an approved ITPA. The survey must be completed by no later that May 31, 1999. The survey results must be communicated by the ITPA to Safeway in a written format. Reports should be forwarded to:

      Charles Stoffers
      Director, Food Safety
      Safeway, Inc.
      5918 Stoneridge Mall Road
      Pleasanton, CA 94588-3229

    On a going forward basis, annual certification must be completed by March 1 of each year.

    Safeway views this program as important to our relationship -- working together to resolve issues related to produce food safety. We would appreciate any comments or suggestions you may have about the program. This is a critical industry and customer issue, and we want to hear from you. If you have any questions regarding the program or any of the above or enclosed, please contact Jack Cupp, Director, Produce & Floral Procurement, at (925) 944-4172.


      Ed Wright
      Vice President
      Produce & Floral



    Jack Cupp
    Chuck Stoffers
    Produce Buyers
    Don Harris