The ongoing efforts of Costco’s Food Safety Program
Microbial and qualitative review
Costco uses microbial testing to ensure
that manufacturing processes are operating
within controlled food-safety parameters.
Chemical testing verifies, for example, that no
pesticides have been used on the produce,
that there are no sulfites or phosphates in the
shrimp and that the farmed fish contains no
antibiotics, mercury or PCBs.
The company tests an ever-expanding
list of foodstuffs, including meat, fish and
poultry. The microbial testing of raw and
cooked beef takes place at Costco’s Tracy,
California, meat-processing plant. At Tracy,
ground beef is tested for E. coli both before
and after grinding.
Ready-to-eat produce and Kirkland
Signature™ foods, including nuts, vegetable
oils, bread and milk, are also tested. “Testing
doesn’t make food safer,” says Christine
Summers, Costco’s director of food safety and
corporate quality assurance, “but it does show
that our processes for food safety are working.”
The bulk of Costco’s food-safety testing
takes place at the 4,000-square-foot corporate
quality-assurance lab at Costco’s Issaquah,
Washington, headquarters. Fifteen technicians and lab manager Robin Forgey test 900
different samples every month.
Qualitative DNA testing is used to
authenticate products. Is the white fish that’s
labeled mahi-mahi really mahi-mahi? Is the
Tuscano olive oil really from Tuscany?
Costco’s qualitative testing, which also