Food safety extends to retail safety

Safety is an important but often overlooked aspect of food safety in retail grocery stores.

Making sure people walking down the aisles don’t tamper with the product — and catching them when they do and making sure they never do it again — is key to assuring loyal customers that their grocery store is a safe place to shop and where maintaining the integrity of the products they buy is paramount.

Lionheart Security Services helps grocers and other retailers catch thieves and others tampering with store merchandise.

Lionheart employees typically guard store doors and coordinate with store security to prevent people from stealing and committing other store crimes.

“When they walk out of the store, we help walk them back inside,” said Bill Herzog, CEO of Lionheart. Lionheart has worked in security for Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and other food retailers.

Theft is a growing problem at grocery stores, and fresh food is a prime target, Herzog said.

“Grocery stores are one of the first places people steal, and that’s certainly growing with the economy as it is right now,” he said. “A lot of people can no longer afford to buy what they could buy before. Shoplifting is worse.

Take-out deli sandwiches from the in-store deli are a prime target, Herzog said — they’re packaged, easy to put in your pocket, don’t need to be cooked, and provide quick nutrition. Fresh fruit is another hard-hit category in the scope.

Herzog admits that such crimes are hardly on the level of armed robbery.

“You’re not going to fight someone over a $5 sandwich,” he said. “Our customers dictate the level of security they want.”

In-store communications

Another company helping grocery stores with in-store safety is Hq98, which coordinates the use of Motorola, Kenwood and other two-way radios for its customers, customizing programs to meet their specific needs.

For groceries, that often means protecting formula and other items that are enclosed in cases, said company CEO Stewart McClintic.

Customers press a call button located next to the checkouts, which sends a signal to all employees who have two-way radios, speeding the transfer of these products to shoppers’ carts or baskets.

Two-way radios are a more contemporary solution to problems that were previously solved using a loudspeaker broadcast to everyone in the store, McClintic said.

“A lot of stores have moved away from that – it’s confusing customers,” he said.

When a food safety or other issue arises, it’s also much faster to communicate via two-way radio and helps ensure the right person for the job is alerted.

Some customers give radios to all of their employees, others only to managers and other key staff, McClintic said. The larger the store, the more likely the latter scenario.

Safeway and Kroger have been among Hq98’s retail clients.

“A lot of big chains are starting to implement them,” he said.

Unfortunately, much of this is due to the increase in active shooting scenarios in stores.

McClintic said he hates to take advantage of these fears, but there’s no doubt the company is seeing an increase in sales after tragic events.

Having the right security in place can not only help protect against tragedies, but also better ensure food security in everyday life.

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