Four major supermarket chains have signed consent orders with the Federal Trade Commission promising to make sure they have advertised sale items on hand at the sale price in sufficient quantities to satisfy anticipated demand.

Agreeing to the FTC orders were Food Fair Stores, Inc., which operates stores under the names of Food Fair and Pantry Pride: Kroger Co., Fisher Foods Inc., and Shop-Rite Foods, Inc.,

Complaints leading to the consent orders, which are signed without admitting any wrongdoing, charged each of the chains with violations of the agency's six-year-old rule which makes it a deceptive practice for food stores or advertise an item and not have sufficient quantities available at each store to meet a reasonably anticipated demand.

Each of the orders requires the chains to adhere to the commission's rule and sets up mechanisms - they vary somewhat - to reduce the number of instances in which the advertised products either are unavailable or marked with higher-than-advertised prices, or in which the consumer is overcharged.

Each order requires the company to institue a surveillance program to monitor availability, pricing practices and performance, and also include a provision requiring the companies to issue "rain checks" for unavailable items.

Since the commission issued its rule, the agency has take similiar action against six other food chains, in addition to securing similiar consent agreements from three drugstore chains.

Yesterday, it said it was trying to determine whether "a more uniform remedial approach" to the problems of unavailable advertised items might be in the public interest, and it asked for public comments.