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Amid pandemic, grocery chains get ‘seal of approval’ for health, safety practices

Ingles, Brookshire’s, Cub, Coborn’s, Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres join Ecolab Science Certified program.

Russell Redman

February 19, 2021

4 Min Read
Coborns cart sanitizing covid-19
Coborn's

With COVID-19 still a big concern to shoppers, six supermarket chains from across the country have joined the Ecolab Science Certified program to bring a “seal of approval” to public health and safety conditions at their stores. 

With the move, Ingles Markets, Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy, Cub Foods, Coborn’s, Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres have committed to “rigorous” cleaning protocols, training and audits to earn the Ecolab Science Certified seal, Ecolab Inc. said yesterday. The St. Paul, Minnesota-based company is a global provider of water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services to businesses in the food, health care, hospitality and industrial markets.

The Ecolab Science Certified program combines advanced chemistries with public health and food safety training, as well as periodic auditing, to help the food retailers achieve a higher level of cleanliness amid health and safety challenges and new consumer expectations amid the coronavirus crisis and other emerging pathogens, according to Ecolab. By passing Ecolab’s independent audit and adhering to the program guidelines, the grocery chains will be able to display the official Ecolab Science Certified seal at their combined 475-plus store locations.

Brookshires Grocery-produce worker-face mask-COVID.jpg

Visible signs of health and safety practices, such as this Brookshire's associate donning a face mask and gloves, are a key element of the Ecolab Science Certified program for food retailers.

“The safety of our customers and associates has been of paramount importance to Ingles since the outbreak of the pandemic last year,” Ron Freeman, chief financial officer at Asheville, North Carolina-based Ingles Markets, which operates 197 supermarkets in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama. “The Ecolab Science Certified program allows us to demonstrate our commitment to rigorous, science-based cleaning protocols, training and audits to our customers and associates. The program is an important part of our overall standards to help provide a safer and cleaner shopping experience and workplace by reducing the risk of exposure to germs, including the COVID-19 virus.” 

The Science Certified program incorporates Ecolab’s expertise in helping keep hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses clean. It employs the company’s science-based solutions and insights from a global team of 1,200 scientists, with audits performed by Ecolab specialists. 

In grocery stores, restaurants and hotels, key elements of the Ecolab Science Certified program include the use of hospital disinfectants and food-contact sanitizers—approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against COVID-19 virus and other pathogens—and elevated hygiene standards and protocols based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, according to Ecolab. Detailed public health and food safety training and regular auditing by Ecolab personnel ensure that public health and food safety practices are being followed, while front-of-house cleaning and disinfecting and the Ecolab Science Certified seal provide a visible sign of “cleaner, safer practices” to customers, the company said.

Proprietary consumer research conducted in May found that 72% of frequent grocery shoppers feel “very safe” or “extremely safe” knowing that hospital-grade disinfectants were being used in stores, Ecolab reported. Consumers also expressed greater feelings of safety knowing that a store’s cleaning and disinfecting practices are verified by an independent auditor with cleaning expertise. And an Ecolab survey last month revealed that 95% of consumers want “as much or more” cleaning and sanitation practices where they eat, stay and shop even after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Part of the Brookshire Grocery Co., Brookshire’s operates over 180 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. In the Midwest, Cub Foods—a unit of grocery distributor United Natural Foods Inc.—has 79 locations in Minnesota and Illinois, and Coborn’s operates more than 60 supermarkets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. And In Southern California, gourmet grocer Bristol Farms has 14 locations from Santa Barbara to Palm Desert, while natural food market Lazy Acres fields five stores from Santa Barbara to San Diego. 

“Through the Ecolab Science Certified program, we’re helping our customers recalibrate to meet higher standards throughout the industry,” commented Adam Johnson, vice president and general manager of Ecolab’s global food retail business. “We look forward to helping these leading food retailers build consumer confidence as they implement our comprehensive program.” 

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This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

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