(June 6) Consumer confidence in food safety has dropped significantly in the past year and retailers and organizations are doing what they can to bring those numbers back up.

According to the Food Marketing Institute, Crystal City, Va., the percentage of consumers confident that the food they buy in the grocery store is safe dropped from 82% last year to 66% this year.

Bringing that consumer confidence back up is essential, said Jill Hollingsworth, vice president of food safety programs.

Retailers are in a unique position to do that because they can affect food safety practices from many fronts — growers, suppliers, supermarket operations and consumer education.

“That is an area where we feel, as retailers, that we have a very significant and visible role because we see the consumer every day,” Hollingsworth said.

Larchmont, N.Y.-based retailer D’Agostino Supermarkets is changing how it handles food safety issues. In May, D’Agostino’s added specialist/manager of food safety to the role of director of produce John Vasapoli.

Vasapoli, who has been with D’Agostino’s for the past 35 years, including 22 years as produce director, with stints as director of meat/seafood and deli/bakery, serves as the company’s spokesman covering the gamut of food safety issues — food handling, cleaning, separating, refrigeration, cooking and storing and addressing foodborne illnesses.

Whenever a food safety issue affects the public, the company said it is Vasapoli’s job to keep shoppers informed with regular updates on its Web site, www. dagnyc.com.

Hollingsworth said, while it is a good idea for retailers to have food safety managers, it is important for them to have a more extensive program.

“I think we need to be cautious that we don’t rely on just one means,” she said. “We have to build upon having all of the right people aware of the information at the same time.”