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GRI 416

Customer Health and Product Safety

Brief Overview:

The REWE Group aims to meet the highest quality standards for its private label products and ensure the safety of travellers in its tourism businesses. The company

  • aims to always meet growing customer demands, to continuously ensure the quality of its products, as well as to minimise the pesticide load on fruit and vegetables;
  • defines specific requirements for the product and its producers for all steps along the value chain – from raw material to packaging – as the basis for regular sampling by independent testing institutes;
  • uses recognised certifications and international standards;
  • has the latest developments in travel areas monitored around the clock using a digital early warning system by crisis and security management as part of crisis prevention at DER Touristik and conducts regular comprehensive safety analyses.

The safety of products and the health of customers are very important at the REWE Group and play a prominent role both in retail and in tourism. However, the requirements and challenges in both areas are different.

GRI 416: Customer Health and Safety

Management Approach


The REWE Group is aware that its business activities may have impacts on product safety and customer health. For this reason, the company has established comprehensive quality management (QM) across all stages of the value chain.

In retail, it is the responsibility of the REWE Group to ensure that not only food but also non-food products, such as DIY store and household products, are free from all kinds of harmful substances. This must be guaranteed along the entire value chain. The company can exert a major influence on product safety and customer health by purchasing certified raw materials, by its choice of suppliers or by optimising established products.

The safety factor is also becoming increasingly important in tourism: Political crises, war, natural disasters, climate impacts and overtourism lead to an increased need for safety and confidence among travellers. DER Touristik, the tourism division of the REWE Group, therefore guarantees safety by choosing more sustainable travel destinations and means of transport. With its crisis and security management, the company also ensures travellers’ confidence and safety and always keeps an eye on all service providers across the world.


In its Guideline on Sustainable Business Practices, the REWE Group acknowledges its responsibility for consumer interests, products, services and appropriate sales, marketing and information practices aimed at consumers, as well as applicable consumer protection regulations.

To fulfil this responsibility, the company relies on established and effective processes, optimises its procedures where necessary and, most importantly, is guided by nationally and internationally measurable standards. As the focus is on consumer satisfaction, the topics of prevention and food safety form the basis of quality management at the REWE Group. A holistic approach is taken to product quality – from prevention, suppliers and logistics to customers.

A holistic approach is taken to product quality – from prevention, suppliers and logistics to customers.


The overarching objective of quality management is to satisfy customers’ high quality requirements for the REWE Group’s private label products. The company is committed to offering flawless, high-quality and safe private label products in its stores and therefore monitors all products along the entire value chain.

The REWE Group has also set the objective of reducing the pesticide load for fruit and vegetables.

In acute crises, such as natural disasters, accidents or terror attacks, the objective of DER Touristik is to ensure the confidence and safety of travellers. This requires comprehensive crisis and security management, both in the destination country and at home.

Responsibility and Resources

The quality assurance measures are implemented by the QM of the REWE Group, headed by Charlotte Rosendahl. It safeguards the stakeholders and prevents damage to image. It acts for all sales lines of the REWE Group, both for food and non-food products, such as DIY store and household products.

Over 300 employees work in quality assurance in administration in Germany, in the national companies with headquarters in Austria, in the CEE region (Central and Eastern Europe) and at the procurement organisation REWE Far East with headquarters in Hong Kong.

At the REWE Group in Austria, Marlene Wieninger heads QM with around 60 employees. It is divided into the areas of product/supplier control, international (BILLA CEE and PENNY Int.), store and warehouse control, as well as crisis management for conducting product recalls.

The crisis and security management team from DER Touristik, headed by Melanie Gerhardt, is responsible for all destinations from the headquarters in Frankfurt. It consists of a core team and 115 Help Team employees who go through a nine-stage, international crisis management qualification and certification programme for training.

The quality management department of Lekkerland SE is led by the Head of Quality Management & Corporate Responsibility. The department had 14 employees in the reporting year. The department is organised into different areas, including QM private labels, emergency coordination, occupational safety, document management, sustainability, HACCP and hygiene, as well as certifications and audits.

A central customer service department processes incoming enquiries and complaints (see also Implementation). The QM department uses the resulting KPIs for supplier assessment, for example. In terms of function, the customer service department cooperates closely with the QM department.


All activities of the QM department for the sales lines REWE and PENNY as well as toom Baumarkt DIY store in Germany, starting with preventive measures, through warehouse and store inspections, to supplier audits, are published in a KPI report, which is collected every six months, known as the “Management Review QM”, and therefore made measurable and transparent.

All quality management activities at REWE and PENNY in Germany are published and therefore made measurable and transparent.

The first step is the product selection. The QM department supports the purchasing departments and product managers with market observation and gives recommendations for action. It takes into consideration legal stipulations, as well as information from consumer protection organisations and associations. These findings and stipulations are used in prognoses, on the basis of which departments continuously optimise established products.

The QM department always focuses on private label products of REWE and PENNY in Germany, as well as on mandated products for the foreign subsidiaries and on non-food products: The Combine defines specific requirements for the product and its producers for all steps along the value chain – from raw materials, recipes and labelling to packaging. The content of these so-called specifications forms the basis for regular sampling by independent, accredited testing institutes. The samples are selected on the basis of risk according to supplier and product risk. Furthermore, regular tastings both of new and existing recipes are carried out in its own tasting centre, and samples of non-food products are taken.

In order to achieve the objective of minimising pesticide load for fruit and vegetables, the REWE Group has also drawn up a negative list for pesticide use for conventional fruit and vegetables for the sales lines REWE and PENNY in Germany. It lists active substances that producers are not allowed to use in production. In addition to and as part of quality management, all fruit and vegetable products are regularly tested for possible pesticide residues on the basis of a risk-oriented sampling plan. This risk analysis is also part of the annual seasonal planning of the purchasing department as it is a criterion for whether and how a product is put on the market (see also section Ecological Aspects in the Supply Chain). The REWE Group also goes beyond legal stipulations when it comes to plant protection. For example, it has drawn up a negative list at toom Baumarkt DIY stores that prohibits all active ingredients that are harmful to bees (see also Biodiversity).

Along with the products themselves, other stages of the value chain are also included in the audit. Private label suppliers in the food area for all sales lines that are ordered from Germany must be certified according to a standard recognised by the GFSI (Global Food Safety Initiative), such as IFS Food or the standard of the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Furthermore, the REWE Group also conducts additional supplier audits on the basis of a risk analysis. This risk analysis encompasses evaluation of various KPIs, such as product complaints, customer complaints and risk classification of the product groups for all sales lines that are ordered from Germany. Manufacturers and suppliers that do not satisfy the quality standards of the REWE Group are required to change this or risk being delisted.

In addition, there are annual audits of warehouses by internal auditors and also by an independent external inspection body. These involve all storage areas from incoming goods to transport to the stores. Furthermore, special audits within the warehouse are carried out with the focus on implementing quality standards for the fruit and vegetables area.

Regular internal and external inspections are also carried out in the food stores of REWE and PENNY as well as nahkauf in Germany. The external inspections are done on the basis of the checklists of QS Qualität und Sicherheit GmbH, Bonn, with the focus on meat and meat products, as well as fruit, vegetables and potatoes. In 2022, a total of 7,116 internal and external store audits were conducted (2021: 7,285).

Products that are produced in the REWE stores themselves, such as mince (at the service counter) or fruit and convenience products, are subject to monitoring with the focus on microbiology; these are examined in independent laboratories.

To guarantee the quality and safety of its products, the REWE Group in Austria has also introduced a comprehensive quality assurance system on all stages of the entire value chain in retail. It encompasses both preventive measures, such as defining product guidelines, and systematic issue monitoring, inspections and audits, as well as consumer tips for correct handling in store. The KPI system that was established back in 2010 makes adherence to legal and internal quality requirements measurable and therefore more transparent. KPIs such as the results of internal quality controls of products (for microbiological, chemical and physical parameters), as well as stores and warehouses (handling products, personnel hygiene, cleaning and disinfection and the cool chain, etc.) are gathered.

At DER Touristik, employees in crisis and security management monitor the latest developments in tourist areas around the clock as part of crisis prevention. If an alarm is triggered in one of the digital early warning systems, measures to tackle the crisis can be taken within a very short time. These measures include crisis hotlines for making direct contact with those affected, as well as close cooperation with destination agencies, authorities, airlines and airports. It is also necessary to guarantee an up-to-date and qualified flow of information for the stakeholders involved and the general public.

In acute crises, such as natural disasters, accidents or terror attacks, crisis and security management manages crisis situations across the world. It is supported by “Help Teams” in the respective area. The employees of these teams receive additional training for crisis situations. They ensure that travellers and employees are safe and looked after on site and act as an extension of security management. The whole of crisis management is coordinated from the crisis management headquarters, and transportation to hospitals, alternative hotels or travel home are organised if necessary. The Help Teams are stationed at various different locations so they can be on site quickly.

Involvement of Stakeholders

Stakeholders are informed annually about the effectiveness of measures taken in the area of Customer Health and Product Safety via the Sustainability Report and in various dialogue formats (see Stakeholder Dialogue). This exchange allows stakeholders to provide important input on the issue.

Furthermore, the REWE Group has established reporting and complaint mechanisms, e.g. for employees or suppliers. The product recall process is particularly important for suppliers (see Section of the same name below). For more information on complaint mechanisms, please refer to the section Compliance.

Customers can contact central customer service if they have any complaints or comments about products.

The findings gathered from customer feedback, complaints, suggestions for improvement and test results are continuously incorporated into product development.

GRI 416-1: Assessment of the health and safety impacts of product and service categories

Compliance with Statutory as well as Internal Stipulations

The REWE Group conducts systematic health and safety audits along the entire product lifecycle as part of quality management. In 2022, the number of total investigations increased continuously, which was attributable in particular to an increase in independent product audits. This was caused by COVID-related issues with product availability and personnel bottlenecks in 2020/2021. This returned to normal in the reporting year. There was a slight decrease in supplier audits since fewer initial audits were conducted in the reporting year and audits that were postponed during the pandemic years did not have to be caught up on.

Audits of Compliance with Statutory as well as Internal Guidelines on Health and Safety (Absolute Figures)

2020 2021 2022
Supplier audits 483 677 565
Independent product audits private labels 19,320 24,115 28,320
External warehouse audits 114 97 92
External store audits 3,687 3,761 3,581
Inspections of products produced in store 17,306 17,733 17,809
Total number of inspections 40,910 46,383 50,367

Scope: REWE and PENNY in Germany, as well as other products mandated in REWE Group Buying, such as bundled PENNY International products.

GRI 416-2: Incidents of non-compliance concerning the health and safety impacts of products and services

Product recalls

In 2022, there were 13 public recalls (2021: 13) for private label products in Germany and four in Austria (2021: 3). In Germany, five recalls were due to foreign bodies (2021: 6), three recalls were done because of microbiological complaints (2021: 4), two recalls concerned the content/quantity of a product (2021: 0) and a further recall was issued because of residue, declaration errors or contaminants. In Austria, two recalls were due to foreign bodies in private label products (2021: 2), the third recall was related to contamination, while the fourth recall was necessary because of an undeclared allergen.

All public recalls are assessed by Quality Management and, if necessary, the suppliers concerned are audited by external experts on behalf of Quality Management. The aim of this audit is to check which measures are being initiated in the company to avoid this kind of deviation in the future.

The public recalls carried out concerned individual cases. There were no accumulations in certain product groups or with suppliers. In all cases, customers were able to return the goods in store in return for a refund of the purchase price.