Wal-Mart to focus on food safety in China: High-tech or high-touch?

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is focusing on food safety as the world’s largest retailer aims to boost profitability of its more than 400 stores in China, Wal-Mart Asia chief executive Scott Price told Reuters.

walmart“We play an important role in China delivering food safety and quality products to our customers,” Price said on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit, which begins on Sunday. “It’s a differentiator.”

Price said the company would “continue to invest very aggressively” with a focus on food quality and safety to push up traffic to Wal-Mart’s Chinese stores.

Wal-Mart said in June it would increase its spending on food safety in China to 300 million yuan ($49 million) in 2013, 2014 and 2015, up from a previously-announced 100 million yuan.

“The ‘fresh’ experience is an area where we can differentiate. We are the only retailer in China that has 100 percent of our ‘fresh’ going through distribution centres,” he said.

“China is a big part of the future game,” Price added. Last year in October, Wal-Mart announced plans to open up to 110 new facilities in China between 2014 and 2016.

Frank Yiannas vice-president food safety, Walmart, will tell the Dubai food safety conference that food safety awareness is at an all-time high, the food system is becoming increasingly complex, and foodborne outbreaks continue to be reported. Despite the fact that we – as a profession – have conducted millions of microbiological tests, trained vast numbers of food workers, and conducted countless number of inspections at home and abroad, food safety remains a significant public health challenge. Why is that?

frank.doug.manhattanTo advance food safety into the 21st century and further reduce the global burden of foodborne disease, there is no question about it, we need greater food safety innovations. However, there is considerable debate in the

profession on what and how exactly things need to change. For example, some food safety professionals believe that further reductions in foodborne disease hinge on science and technology, such as new detection methods, pathogen interventions, and new food production processes – often referred to as High Tech. Others, in contrast, believe that improvements in food safety are more dependent on highly skilled, motivated people and organizational cultures – referred to as High Touch.