WASHINGTON, DC — December 3, 2004 — Audits by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Safe Quality Food (SQF) program will now provide consumers and retailers with an extra measure of protection through a new technology partnership with Steton, a global leader in food safety and quality assurance software, according to an announcement today by the two organizations.

Under the partnership, FMI has named the Steton Quality Suite® as the exclusive technology to conduct SQF audits of suppliers. “We have the audit content,” said Paul Ryan, executive director of the SQF program. “With Steton’s technology, we have the ability to more accurately, efficiently and quickly communicate, analyze and manage the audit results. Steton’s technology will enable SQF auditors to reach the highest performance level.”

The technology replaces paper-and-pencil audits with data gathered by hand-held computers that upload data to a secure database. “The Steton Quality Suite® provides instant access to real-time data, greater analysis and the capability to quickly identify trends in supplier food safety and quality performance,” said Steven G. Caplin, Steton president and CEO.

“The software is also equipped to track in detail corrective actions taken by suppliers to solve food safety problems or upgrade quality,” he added.

“Retailers will benefit,” said Ryan, “by having a consistent format that will provide quick and accurate assessments of audit reports, enabling them to make informed decisions about their suppliers. The technology will also facilitate a reduction in the duplication of audits — an ongoing concern for both suppliers and retailers.”

To encourage the use of this technology, FMI negotiated significant price reductions in the Steton Quality Suite® for the independent certification parties that perform SQF audits.

“Our ultimate purpose is to protect consumers.” Ryan said. “The SQF Program is doing that by ensuring suppliers perform safety and quality management following the most rigorous global standards.”

SQF certification is endorsed by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which establishes benchmarks and standards for food safety worldwide. Currently, 4,000 suppliers in 15 countries are certified under the SQF program.