Food safety is all-consuming in the minds of food shoppers these days.

U.S. supermarket owners know they play a role in maintaining consumer confidence. But they need knowledgeable, quality-conscious workers to assure that meat is handled properly in the store. Just as you’re finding good help is hard to find, retailers are having a difficult time hiring motivated, young workers.

Superstores, grocery chains and restaurants are all jockeying for the consumer’s food dollar. So meat case presentation, quality products and qualified help are gaining importance. Consumers use those traits to decide where to shop.

Grocery stores also need to help educate consumers about how to handle meat once it leaves the store. An article in Supermarket News notes that it’s a challenge to teach shoppers that they shouldn’t buy meat then run errands. Even on a 40° F day they need to go directly home and refrigerate the meat.

There are plans to help. Next on USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points agenda are wholesalers, retailers and restaurants. HACCP is designed as a self-monitoring food safety program for the meat industry. Large meat packers were first on the list, initiating their HACCP programs in January.

“In keeping with the farm-to-table philosophy, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants are next to be introduced to HACCP,” says Bonnie Buntain, Food Safety Inspection Service’s director of animal production and food safety.