Walmart China will significantly increase its investment in food safety to more than RMB300m (US$48m) between 2013 and 2015. Previously, the retailer had announced investments of RMB100m for the same three years.
"This increased investment reflects our growing commitment to enhance food safety management in the supply chain and in all our stores," said Walmart China chief compliance officer Paul Gallemore.
Sean Clarke, the company’s regional president, added that food safety is rooted in Walmart's compliance culture.
"We strive for our customers to have complete trust in the products they buy from us. All our efforts are aimed to ensure the authenticity, safety and quality of food for our customers in China,” he said.
With this increased investment, Walmart will focus on several key areas to further improve food safety management over the coming years.
These will include performing additional testing and applying tougher standards for suppliers, doubling DNA testing on meat products and increasing facility audits and inspections of primary producers by more than 30% over 2013 levels.
The number of facility audits and inspections of primary producers were up by one-half last year from 2012, with Walmart China performing more than 400 DNA tests for meat products, close to 1,400 third-party audits and inspections of farms, factories, processing centres, slaughterhouses, and more than 50,000 product tests in the company's distribution centres.
Walmart China now has nine fresh distribution centres across China. Products are tested at these sites for compliance against safety and quality standards in a testing lab, while two additional fresh distribution centres will be added by the end of this year. Once it opens, Walmart distribution centres will serve every Walmart Supercentre in China.
In stores, the company is planning to introduce the Sustainable Paperless Auditing and Record Keeping (“SPARK”) system to China.
This technology has been used in Walmart’s American business to monitor food storage temperatures through wireless temperature measuring devices. Temperatures and other measurements are automatically updated for analysis and monitoring.
Mobile labs, too, are to be ramped up as an additional effort to protect customers. Last year, Walmart China's first mobile lab conducted over 35,000 tests on food in stores in Guangdong.
With the second mobile lab launched in Shanghai at the end of last year, the two labs now serve 147 stores in Guangdong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Shanghai, and the number of tests is expected to double this year.
Other safety initiatives will include enhanced in-store food safety standards and strengthened stores auditing for its 400 outlets across China, and a stronger compliance team.