Foodservice distributor US Foods expects to have all 60 of its facilities food safety- and quality-certified by the end of 2013.

Third-party certifier NSF International has been chosen to certify the US Foods facilities, said Jorge Hernandez, the Rosemont, Ill.-based distributor’s senior vice president of food safety and quality assurance.

The certification process has started at several US Foods distribution centers, Hernandez said.

“Food safety has been an area where we have always been a leader,” he said. “This is just a formalization of a process we’ve been working on for seven years.”

Unlike distributors who rely on food safety audits, US Foods chose certification instead, Hernandez said. That will help ensure the company maintains standards continuously, rather than just around audit time.

“The current system has a lot of issues,” Hernandez said. “We wanted to work with a different system that provides better service to our customers and helps differentiate us. We could lose our certification at any time. We have to make sure we’re running 24/7.”

A recent study by the University of Arkansas found that companies that become food-safety certified meet food safety standards better than those that rely on audits only, Hernandez said.

“We were very happy to have that kind of validation,” he said.

Certification for US Foods will include a full traceability program and temperature controls for loads in transit, Hernandez said. Helping in those efforts will be IFS Logistics, a company that specializes in safety and quality standards throughout the supply chain.