Sysco pays $19.4 million to settle refrigeration caseFoodservice supplier Sysco Corp. will pay $19.4 million to settle all claims in California related to its past use of “drop sites” where food was temporarily stored without refrigeration.

“Food safety is Sysco’s No. 1 priority and it cannot be compromised,” Bill DeLaney, president and CEO of the Houston-based company said in a news release. “We sincerely regret that some of our California companies failed to adhere to our long-standing policies related to drop sites.”

Improper storage of food at drop sites in California area came to light a year ago after a local NBC television news affiliate recorded food deliveries of fresh produce, meat, chicken and dairy products in San Jose, San Francisco and Concord. Reports showed employees loading food into personal, non-refrigerated vehicles for delivery.

The TV report prompted the California Department of Public Health to investigate. State officials visited 14 drop sites, which they described as sheds not designed to store food.

“The California Department of Public Health and the county district attorneys received our full cooperation in their investigations of our practices,” DeLaney said in the release. “In addition to the settlement with the state, we have comprehensively addressed our food safety and quality assurance practices in California and across the Sysco enterprise.”

The settlement includes $15 million in penalties, $3.3 million to pay for four public health investigator positions for five years, $1 million in donations to California food banks and $127,000 in legal costs, according to Sysco’s release.

Changes to Sysco’s food safety practices include eliminating the use of drop sites, introducing mandatory annual food safety training for employees, new and improved food safety reporting, monitoring and compliance controls, according to the release.

Last year Sysco’s vice president of corporate communications, Charley Wilson, said Sysco’s policy is to require refrigeration at all times. He said the company accepted responsibility for the “breakdown in our system in California.”