FOOD SAFETY TIPS
• Perishable foods should never sit
at room temperature for more than two
hours. So don’t run errands on your
way home from Costco, or if you do, put
perishables in a cooler.
• It may seem unnecessary, but
wash peel-and-eat fruits such as
bananas. Peels might carry bacteria.
• Rinsing off soda cans, milk bottles,
jars and canned foods can help eliminate harmful bacteria.
• Make sure your freezer is set at or
below 0 F; fridges below 40 F.
• Pay attention to the expiration
information on the package. You can
extend shelf life by freezing.
For more tips, see homefoodsafety.org.
Information provided by the American Dietetic
Association and the ConAgra Foods Foundation.
Bottom: Monica Conroy prepares
samples for microbiology testing.
Below: Tony Nguyen tests bath
tissue for tensile strength.
obeying the law when manufacturing food
that we sell. We are focused on doing the
right thing to protect our members.”
The food safety audit department even
requires manufacturers to perform a mock
recall. This process shows what would happen if an item had to be recalled: how ingredients would be tested, which production
facilities would need to be inspected and
how Costco would be alerted to the issue. In
fact, if a vendor does alert Costco of an actual
issue, Costco has a process that determines
who bought the item from which warehouse
and then calls members directly at the
phone number listed in their membership
records. (This is why it’s important to keep
your membership information up to date.)
Above and beyond
Forgey told me that Costco created its
food safety standards to meet U.S. Food and
Drug Administration standards—and often
exceeds them with additional steps and
requirements. For instance, Costco added
new requirements such as backup testing
and testing greater multiples of samples.
“We also test raw materials, not just finished products,” Forgey says.
A good example of going
above and beyond is the food
safety procedures in place for
cooking Costco’s rotisserie
chickens in the warehouses.
By federal law these chickens
have to be cooked to only ;;;
degrees. However, Costco
cooks them to ;;; degrees,
taking the temperature in two
places on the chicken to
ensure correct doneness.
“Costco’s R&D team has
developed a marinating and
cooking process that is
designed to ensure that the
chicken is still moist and tender
when cooked that long,” says
Forgey, “and we can be confident that the
food is safe for our members.”
With its global food safety and quality
assurance program, combined with its
sophisticated QA Lab, Costco has really
taken the industry lead on how food safety
and quality should be managed. Forgey
notes that Costco views the cost of such
intensive scrutiny as simply what it takes
to do business the right way. Costco does
not increase prices to cover those costs—its
goal is simply to ensure quality and food
safety for its members.
I appreciate that Costco takes this
topic so seriously, and I know I can rest
assured about the safety of the food I purchase there. C
produced in a sanitary manner. All testing
is done with state-of-the-art equipment
specific to the industry of each product
tested. “For instance, a machine used for
testing Kirkland Signature milk is the same
sophisticated equipment that is used by
every major dairy in the U.S.,” Forgey says.
After all testing is completed, a barcode
label is developed that gives the lab information about each product: where it came from,
what testing was completed and what the
final results were. This data is entered in a
software program and tracked by QA Lab
management for precise record keeping.
Working with suppliers
I also wondered about food items that
come from major suppliers. How do I know
if items like potato chips or blueberries
are safe to eat? Forgey notes that Costco’s
food safety audit department ensures that
systems and procedures have been estab-
lished to prevent food hazards in those
types of products as well.
Control points are in place and monitoring is constant throughout the production process. For instance, in order to sell
fresh produce at Costco, suppliers have to
complete periodic safety audits on procedures used at both the farm growing the
food and at the production facilities. A
procedure called “test and hold” is required
for fresh cut produce. At this step, testing
must be completed for a wide range of bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella;
suppliers must hold on to their product until
the test results are supplied to Costco before
they can ship it to the warehouse.
Sean Wolfley, the corporate QA Lab
manager and a chemist, explains, “It’s
important that we ensure our suppliers are